Heavy ion therapy researchers make breakthrough

Cai Wenjun
Among patients with relapsed nasopharynx cancer, heavy ion radiotherapy can improve treatment and survival, Shanghai experts find.
Cai Wenjun
Heavy ion therapy researchers make breakthrough
Ti Gong

The Shanghai Proton and Heavy Ion Center announced that it has achieved positive results with heavy ion radiotherapy on patients with relapsed nasopharynx cancer.

Among 206 cases, the two-year survival rate reached 83.7 percent, much better than traditional photon radiotherapy with 60 percent survival, experts said.

The research was published by leading journal Cancer and has received international recognition.

Nasopharynx cancer is prevalent in Southeast Asia and is also common among Chinese patients. Radiotherapy is the main treatment for the disease. Both treatment effects and survival rate have increased along with the development of technology, however 10 to 15 percent of patients still have regional relapse.

The center, which uses proton and heavy ion beams to target and kill cancerous tissue without harming healthy tissue and cells, is the first facility of its kind in China and only the third in the world. Its experts have focused on the research into relapsed nasopharynx cancer.

“Patients with relapsed nasopharynx cancer are usually not sensitive to traditional photon radiotherapy. If imposing bigger dosages, patients can suffer serious side effects, which can be even fatal,” said Dr Hu Jiyi from the center. “Heavy ions offer a better solution. Its effects on killing cancerous cells are two to five times greater than photon, while it is also more targeted. The damage to surrounding healthy tissues is lower, reducing patients’ side effects.”

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