A nine-year-old girl has become the first pediatric cancer patient in Italy to be treated with proton therapy, a type of radiation treatment generally used on aggressive inoperable tumors.
The girl has a rare type of tumor called Chordomas, which can arise from bone in the skull base and anywhere along the spine. The therapy uses a particle accelerator and ionizing radiation to target diseased tissue with a beam of protons.
Proton therapy is available in 48 centers worldwide, two of which are in Italy, in Pavia and Trento. Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin is seeking to include it in the country’s Essential Care Levels, which means the national health service will pay for the treatment.
“This technique produces a lot fewer long-term side effects, such the loss of cognitive functions, while sparing healthy nearby tissue,” said Angela Mastronuzzi, a blood cancer specialist at Bambin Gesu’ Pediatric Hospital in Rome.