The Woodward News

Local News

July 24, 2010

Arnett man benefits from proton therapy

Woodward, Okla. — When Gary Bayless, 64, of Arnett found he had prostate cancer last year, he wanted to learn as much about treatment as he could.

He learned surgery and X-ray radiation could cause incontinence and impotence, and Bayless said he didn’t want that.

But after reading about a different type of radiation called proton therapy on the Internet, Bayless chose it as the route he wanted to take.

He is now, in his words, “cancer free.” And, he still has the use of his bladder and other bodily functions, he said.

“I’ve talked to some prostate cancer patients who have gone with other forms of treatment and now wish they’d had proton therapy,” Bayless said.

According to Dr. Sameer Keole, radiology oncologist and medical director of the ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City, proton therapy differs from regular x-ray radiation because it is able to treat a tumor without causing much damage to surrounding tissue.

A proton is a positively-charged subatomic particle, that appears in the nucleus of an atom

In the case of proton therapy, the proton is taken from the hydrogen atom, Keole said.

“It (hydrogen) is the H of the H2O molecule," he said, claiming that with proton therapy, "You’re essentially treating the site with water.”

Since “the human body is mostly water,” Keole said, “people tolerate the treatment extremely well. They just really do great in therapy.”

What also helps people tolerate the treatment is that proton therapy is a more targeted therapy, he said.

“Regular X-rays are like a bullet,” Keole said. “They will damage cancer but also tissue. Protons are like a fire cracker. They’ll get deposited in the cancer and destroy it but won’t damage the rest of the tissue.”

As an example, “for a pediatric patient with a brain tumor, we can decrease the dose of radiation by 80 percent to the surrounding tissue,” Keole said.  “Traditional (X-ray) radiation will go 300 to 500 percent more to healthy tissue than proton therapy. With proton therapy, there is far lesser risk associated with the treatment of brain cancer.”

With prostate cancer, “you treat 50 percent less of the rectum and 30 percent less of the bladder,” Keole said.

“For men with prostate cancer, it’s not that there are no other options,” he said. “But if you want the highest possible cure with the lowest rate of rectal and secondary cancers, proton therapy is the choice. We treat the same exact target and in some cases with more radiation than with X-rays.”

“All the proton centers are seeing very high cure rates with low toxicity rates,” he said.

Proton therapy is not new.  In fact, it’s been around for 50 years, Keole said.

“This is in no way, shape or form experimental," he said.

But it was only available in places like Harvard or MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center or the University of Florida, he said.

However, since last year, the therapy has been available in Oklahoma at the ProCure Proton Therapy Center.

ProCure was started by a group of proton therapy veterans who have been involved in proton therapy throughout the world and wanted to make it more accessible to patients, Keole said.

Last year the ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City treated 150 patients, who suffered from a variety of cancers, including brain, prostate, spinal, gastrointestinal, chest, head and neck cancer, according to spokeswoman Rachel Leonard.

More than 30 people were treated from out of state, she said.

Bayless said he would recommend proton therapy for anyone who had his type of health issue.

"There's no pain -- no surgery with the procedure," he said.

"I'm really glad I went with this type of treatment," Bayless said. "I really like living."

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