Cutting edge technology here in North Texas is changing the lives of cancer patients.
Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation therapy aimed at destroying cancerous cells using protons.
The treatment offers sub-millimeter precision that delivers high-energy proton beams directly to tumors, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
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"It's particularly useful for children, cancers of the head and neck, the brain, the GI track, breast, lung and the prostate," said Dr. Jared Sturgeon at Texas Center for Proton Therapy.
"In tradtional x-rays, which is used for traditional radiation, we aim the beam in one side of the pateint, it goes out the back, but with protons, we aim it at the patient and somewhere inside of them it stops, and we decide where it stops," said Dr. Sturgeon.
The treatment ended up being the only choice for Wichita Falls OB/GYN Bart Spencer, who was diagnosed with sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma, sinus cancer, in September 2016.
He says he wanted to continue treating his patients and knew he needed specialized treatment to minimize side effects on the rest of his body, specifically his eyes and ears.
"Every cancer survivor I talked with talks about maintaining our identity and this is an important part of my life. I have worked hard to get here. Maintaining my identity, being there for patients and seeing their excitement, there isn’t any word for the birth of a newborn, when you're able to be there for them. It helps me fight through all the pain and suffering I’ve gone through," said Dr. Spencer.
"When they told me, 'hey we can probably save your eyes and save your hearing,' I said I am in!" adds Dr. Spencer.
He's receiving proton therapy twice daily, Monday through Friday. He's also receiving low doses of chemotherapy at Texas Oncology-Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, to increase the effectiveness of the proton therapy.
The gentry that delivers the proton beam weighs as much as a Boeing 747 is as tall as a three story building.
For that reason, and its costs, experts say proton therapy isn't easily accesible to many cancer patients, as there are only about 25 centers of its kind in the country.
"It's still pretty rare. It's still cutting edge and proton therapy continues to develop new technologies," said Dr. Sturgeon.
However, having gone through four rounds of aggressive chemo shortly after his diagnosis, Dr. Spencer says he's feeling the benefits of this targeted treatment in comparison to the initial chemo.