Review Article| Volume 133, P140-148, April 2019

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Are further studies needed to justify the use of proton therapy for paediatric cancers of the central nervous system? A review of current evidence

Published:January 28, 2019DOI:


      • Cancers of the central nervous system are the most common solid tumours in children.
      • Proton therapy provides survival and tumour control comparable to photon therapy.
      • Reported median follow-up times were up to 5 years. Limited studies reported longer follow-up results.
      • For stronger evidence, it is highly desired for future studies to improve current reporting.
      • Reporting should include the follow-up time, clearly indicating toxicity criteria used in their evaluation and identifying the risk group.


      Clinical implementation of proton therapy demonstrated its potential to overcome some limitations of the more traditional, photon-based radiotherapy, due to physical and radiobiological advantages of protons. However, questions concerning the long-term effects of protons on paediatric patients need outcome analysis of the reported literature in order to be answered. The current paper has analysed the available clinical trials and comparative studies (protons vs photons) for paediatric cancers of the central nervous system (CNS) analysing the reported outcomes and follow-up times in order to evaluate the safety of proton therapy for this patient group.
      Based on the literature analysis, proton therapy for treatment of paediatric cancers of the CNS was found to provide survival and tumour control outcomes comparable, and frequently superior, to photon therapy. Furthermore, the use of protons was shown to decrease the incidence of severe acute and late toxicities, including reduced severity of endocrine, neurological, IQ and QoL deficits. Most commonly, the reported median follow-up time was up to 5 years. Only a few studies reported promising, longer follow-up results. Considering that these patients are likely to survive many of the malignancies reported on, the incidence of long term sequellae impacting growth, development and quality of life into adulthood, should be viewed longitudinally for completeness.
      The evidence surrounding proton therapy in paediatric tumour management supports its effectiveness and potential benefits in reducing the incidence of late-onset toxicities and second malignancies. For stronger evidence, it is highly desired for future studies to improve current reporting by (1) highlighting the paediatric patient cohort’s outcome (in mixed patient groups), (2) reporting the follow-up time, (3) clearly indicating the toxicity criteria used in their evaluation, and (4) identifying the risk group. With this suggested clarity of future reporting, meaningful data to support treatment choice may then be available.


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