Research Horizons


Cincinnati Children’s/UC Health Proton Therapy Center First in World to Test New Cancer Treatment That Takes Less Than 1 Second

The Cincinnati Children’s/UC Health Proton Therapy Center has begun treating patients in the world’s first clinical trial of FLASH radiation therapy for cancer.

FLASH is a new mode of radiation therapy that can be administered to a patient in as little as a single treatment that lasts less than 1 second, compared with traditional therapy delivery of the same dose over minutes.

John Breneman, MD, medical director of the Proton Therapy Center on the Liberty Campus of Cincinnati Children’s, is principal investigator for the study.

Up to 10 patients whose metastatic cancer has spread to their bones will participate in the clinical trial. The first patient was treated this week, and it went well, according to Breneman.

“The prior three years of preparation by the researchers, engineers, clinical and physics teams culminated in a treatment that was completed in literally a blink of the eye, and the patient was discharged feeling well,” Breneman said.

Bone metastases are usually painful but respond to conventional radiation treatment. The clinical trial aims to determine whether equivalent results in pain relief can be achieved via FLASH therapy with similar or fewer side effects.

The Feasibility Study of FLASH Radiotherapy for the Treatment of Symptomatic Bone Metastases, also known as the FAST-01 study, is sponsored by Varian Medical Systems, a provider of cancer care technologies and solutions.

Read Varian’s announcement

Before this first FLASH proton therapy trial involving people, researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s/UC Health Proton Therapy Center led multiple studies testing the FLASH effect using mice and cell cultures.

To treat people using FLASH, Varian had to implement modifications to its standard equipment to enable the delivery of FLASH dose rates in a safe and controlled manner.

In collaboration, the physicists at the Cincinnati Children’s/UC Health site, led by Anthony Mascia, PhD, commissioned this new technology for clinical use and developed the planning, quality assurance and treatment delivery methodologies required for a safe and effective treatment.

“FLASH is potentially a transformational advance for cancer treatment for many patients,” said John Perentesis, MD, director of the Division of Oncology & Cancer Programs at Cincinnati Children’s.

“If the side effects of radiation on the normal tissues surrounding a tumor can be significantly reduced, the dose of radiation to treat a cancer can be greatly increased,” Perentesis said. “This would raise hope to cure malignancies that respond to radiation but aren’t completely cured at current dose, including pediatric brain tumors like DIPG/pontine glioma and medulloblastoma, sarcomas, and neuroblastoma.”

The Cincinnati Children’s/UC Health Proton Therapy Center, which opened in 2016, incorporates a $24 million, one-of-a-kind research facility. It includes a fully operational proton treatment room dedicated exclusively for research along with integrated laboratories.

“The unique capabilities of the research center were instrumental in Cincinnati helping develop the world’s first clinical trial of FLASH proton therapy,” Perentesis said.

Post written by Barrett Brunsman, Cincinnati Children’s

Read more about the Proton Therapy Center