About the Proton Therapy Center
Proton therapy uses a highly precise beam to target radiation directly at a tumor site, minimizing damage to healthy tissue and limit long-term effects. These benefits are especially important to pediatric patients. Less damage to healthy tissue — especially critical organs like the brain, heart, lungs and eyes — means greater chances of overall improvement, health and longevity. The Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is pleased to offer this advanced treatment in collaboration with Penn Medicine.
We offer proton therapy in the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, located on the same campus as Children’s Hospital, in Penn Medicine’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. All the services your child might need, including radiation, medical oncology, rehabilitation and many others are just steps away. The facility is child-friendly, with a waiting area and anesthesia suite designed with pediatric patients in mind.
Our team. Your partners.
It’s important to us that you and your child see familiar faces at each visit, so we have a core team of dedicated experts who you will see again and again, and who are familiar with all of our patients and their families. Our team includes pediatric oncologists, radiation oncologists, anesthesiologists, physicists, dosimetrists, nurses, radiation therapists, child life specialists and other medical professionals who understand the unique needs of children with cancer.
To ensure safe and seamless transitions of care, you’ll work closely with our intake coordinators, a nurse navigator and a nurse practitioner who are dedicated to supporting patients and families referred for proton therapy. These team members help navigate the insurance process and can assist with accessing other services at Children’s Hospital. For those patients coming to CHOP for the first time, this team will coordinate with your home medical team to ensure a seamless transition of care.
Pediatric oncologists and radiation oncologists
CHOP’s Cancer Center is rated one of the best in the country, and patients benefit from the expertise of its oncologists. Our pediatric radiation oncologists use the latest technology to create treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of the pediatric population. Whether in collaboration with a neuro-oncologist for a brain tumor or a solid tumor specialist for a Ewing sarcoma, our multidisciplinary team provides individualized treatment for every patient.
Your child may require anesthesia before undergoing treatment (as is the case for about half of pediatric proton patients). Children’s Hospital has one of the largest, most expert teams of pediatric anesthesiologists in the country. A comprehensive pediatric anesthesiology team is available for every procedure requiring anesthesia, ensuring medication is delivered safely and appropriately throughout the course of your child’s treatment.
Neuropsychological assessment is a standard of care for every patient who receives radiation therapy to the brain, whether or not the primary oncologist is at Children’s Hospital. We recommend baseline testing before therapy (or surgery) and tests every one through five years thereafter. Through testing, we can identify neurocognitive and developmental issues early, provide recommendations, and help families find resources to be successful at school and home.
Psychosocial support team
Proton patients and their families often face many challenges as they cope with lengthy treatment and long stays away from home. Children’s Hospital has a large, oncology-dedicated psychosocial team to help. Social workers can help plan a stay in Philadelphia and assist with financial needs. Child life specialists work to minimize patient stress and maximize coping techniques. These extra supports will make a huge difference to your family.
Offering the latest advances in proton beam technology
Our Proton Therapy Center offers all of the latest advances in proton beam technology and is at the cutting edge of new technology and treatment techniques, many of which were developed by scientists here.
These technologies and techniques work to make proton therapy even more precise, and less damaging to healthy tissue surrounding your child’s tumor:
- Intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT) shapes the proton beam to match the distribution of the tumor. The ability of protons to stop within normal tissues significantly decreases the dose of radiation to normal tissues. This protects neurocognitive function, vision, swallowing, hearing, taste and speech.
- Pencil beam scanning works by directing a narrow beam of radiation to the tumor, sweeping the beam over its contours like a painter’s brush, and depositing its energy at the site of the tumor. This provides greater precision in treatment.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IRGT) and 4D-motion management are used to treat tumors in areas of the body that move, such as the lungs. Adjustments can be made as needed to more precisely target the radiation dose to the tumor.
Our radiation oncology team is also at the forefront of developing novel techniques for the treatment of neuroblastomas, lymphomas and craniospinal tumors with proton radiation.
Tumors we treat with proton therapy
Brain and central nervous system
- Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (ATRT)
- Germ cell tumors (choriocarcinoma, teratoma, germinoma)
- Glioma (glioblastoma, low-grade glioma)
- Optic nerve tumors
- Optic pathway/hypothalamic glioma
- Primitive neuro-ectodermal tumor (intracranial PNET)
- Ewing sarcoma
- Head and neck carcinomas (parotid, nasopharyngeal)
- Rhabdomyosarcoma (and other soft tissue sarcomas)
- Soft tissue sarcomas (rhabdomyosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, liposarcoma, fibrosarcoma, synovial sarcoma)
- Tumors of the head and neck
- Wilms' tumor
Proton therapy research
The Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital participates in all national clinical trials through our membership in Children’s Oncology Group. Your child’s medical team will discuss opportunities to enroll in clinical trials; we have many active protocols available specifically for proton therapy patients. Clinical trials give patients access to experimental treatment approaches, when needed, and help to advance the field of proton therapy for pediatric cancer.
Our team of physician-scientists have published many papers advancing the evidence, science and technique of treating patients with proton beam therapy. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is also a member of the multi-site, collaborative Pediatric Proton Consortium Registry (PPCR), which collects data from institutions across the country to help facilitate research on proton beam radiation therapy and allow for collaborative research. Christine Hill-Kayser, MD, is on the PPCR steering committee.