When people talk about the cure for cancer, they talk about it like there’s only one cure they have to find. In fact, there would have to be a cure for pretty much every different type of cancer, as they manifest differently and affect different parts of the human body. In the case of a rare brain tumor, proton beam therapy linked to fewer side effects for medulloblastoma.
- Photon based radiotherapy has side effects on the heart, lungs, stomach, as well as other bodily functions
- Proton beam therapy was revealed to be as effective, but less damaging to the body
- The study looked at 59 patients suffering from cancer
- The King family practically made the treatment available in the UK
- Proton therapy still has some negative effects on hearing, endocrine, and neurocognitive functions, but far fewer than the alternatives
In the case of harder to target cancers, such as the rare brain tumor caused by medulloblastoma, certain types of therapies have to be employed – therapies that on the long term, especially if used on children, can lead to severe side effects.
This is what happened to Ashya King, who was diagnosed with the rare disease and offered to be treated via photon based radiotherapy.
Not wanting their child to suffer from lifelong issues from the
treatment, and since the NHS wasn’t offering the safer alternative, the parents took the child from the hospital without letting the doctors know, sparking a nation-wide search for the missing boy.
They ended up in the Czech Republic, where little Ashya got the much needed proton therapy he needed. This ended with the parents being held in a Spanish prison for a short time, only to be soon reunited with their son.
This sparked a study which proved that the treatment had an 80% survival rate over 5 years, and that it affected far fewer functions than the alternative radio therapies offered.
From the 59 patients aged 3 to 21, 55% percent had issues with their neuroendocrine systems, and 1 in 7 has serious hearing issues after 5 years; however, this is far better than the alternatives, which would also cause cardiac, gastrointestinal and pulmonary serious side effects.
The Kings’ misadventure may have led to a few nights spent in jail, but it ultimately led to their son making a full recovery and to the proton based therapy to be accepted by the NHS and recommended to patients similarly affected.