Cancer Center

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Proton Therapy for Children

The Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia offers proton therapy in collaboration with Penn Medicine at The Roberts Proton Therapy Center.

This new and advanced proton therapy center was the first in the mid-Atlantic region and was designed specifically to accommodate the needs of children with cancer and their families. 

What is proton therapy?

Proton therapy is advancing cancer care at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Proton therapy is an innovative form of radiation treatment that allows for more conformed radiation doses delivered to cancerous tumors.

Radiation therapy, while helpful in treating the tumor, often comes with side effects, some of which can be very harmful to growing and developing children. The side effects of proton therapy are generally milder than those which are typically seen in children treated with conventional radiation.

Proton therapy’s greatest benefit is that it is less damaging to the surrounding healthy tissue because it delivers most of its energy to a very narrow field at the location of the tumor.

The treatment is particularly beneficial for children as less damage to healthy tissue, especially critical organs like the brain, heart, lungs and eyes, means greater chances of overall improvement, health and longevity.

Is your child curious to learn what proton therapy will be like? Take a look at this kid friendly tour of the proton therapy experience, which follows a CHOP patient through every step of treatment.

Now offering pencil beam scanning proton therapy

Pencil beam scanning, also known as spot scanning, is now available at The Roberts Proton Therapy Center. This advance in the technology of proton beam therapy allows for greater control of radiation doses over the contours of a cancer tumor, and around critical structures in the brain and other parts of the body.

In this form of proton therapy, the narrow beam of radiation is shot at the tumor and swept over its contours like a painter’s brush, providing even greater precision in treatment. The most significant benefit is less potential for damage to healthy tissue.

Pencil beam scanning proton therapy increases treatment options and reduces treatment time for nearly all pediatric cancer patients who receive proton therapy. For some children, it will eliminate the need for general anesthesia.

Tumors we treat with proton therapy

Brain and central nervous system

  • Astrocytoma
  • Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (ATRT)
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Intracranial germ cell tumors (germinoma)
  • Low grade glioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Optic nerve tumors
  • Optic pathway/hypothalamic glioma
  • Primitive neuro-ectodermal tumor (intracranial PNET)

Solid tumors

  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Chordoma
  • Ewing sarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (and other soft tissue sarcomas)
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Tumors of the head and neck
  • Wilms tumor


  • Hodgkin
  • Non-Hodgkin

Why choose CHOP for proton therapy

As a leader in childhood cancer treatment, we are specially equipped to meet the unique needs of children with cancer. Here are some advantages of choosing CHOP for your child's proton therapy treatment: 

Proton therapy team

Proton therapy targets only cancer cells, significantly reducing the amount of healthy tissue exposed to radiation.

The CHOP-Penn collaboration offers a unique advantage to children with cancer who may benefit from proton therapy.

With access to the resources of two top-ranked health systems and cancer centers, children receiving proton therapy here are cared for by an extensive team of experts in the field of medical and radiation oncology.

The team includes pediatric oncologists, radiation oncologists, anesthesiologists, physicists, dosimetrists, nurses, radiation therapists, child life therapists and other medical professionals who understand the unique needs of children with cancer.

Customized treatment for every child

Each child scheduled to receive proton therapy has treatment planned weeks in advance by a team of radiation oncologists, physicists and dosimetrists. The team reviews, revises and adjusts the plan until they all agree that it offers the best balance between treating the tumor and sparing the normal tissue. The treatment planning process includes the following steps:

Simulation. CHOP oncologists consult with The Roberts Proton Therapy Center staff and schedule the child for a CT simulation. During the simulation, the child's body is positioned as will be during treatment and scans are taken (CT and possibly MRI).

Treatment plan. Radiation oncologists use the data from the scans to develop a treatment plan by:

List of instructions. Radiation oncologists create a list of instructions for the physicists and dosimetrists to use in developing the plan for delivering the radiation.

Agreement of team. All members of the treatment team agree on the plan and the plan goes through an extensive quality assurance process.

Confirmation of plan. The child is then again placed in the treatment position she will be in when treatment begins and the team uses imaging to determine whether the treatment can be delivered as planned.

Once that has been established, then scheduled treatments can begin.

Proton therapy research

Each child treated at The Roberts Proton Therapy Center will have the opportunity to enroll in studies examining the long-term neuropsychological and developmental effects of proton therapy. The results of these studies could help doctors refine and improve proton therapy treatments for future generations of children with cancer.

Wondering if your child is a candidate for proton therapy? Call to make an appointment or request a second opinion consultation at 215-615-5678. For non-urgent questions or requests, contact us online.

Resources for families

Learn more about traveling to CHOP for proton therapy.
Download our proton appointment checklist and contacts sheet.
Visit the Penn Medicine Roberts Proton Therapy Center site.
Get driving directions and parking information for The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Find lodging near The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Learn about available amenities at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Learn about the resources available to families of children with cancer


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Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or request a second opinion.


For non-urgent questions or requests:

Proton Therapy
Tour for Kids

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