All too often, the most brutal part of a bout with cancer is radiation therapy. X rays are electromagnetic waves that travel with a constant amount of energy, so although they effectively kill cancer cells, they pass through the skin and healthy tissues on their way to and from the tumor. In doing so, they damage the normal cells in their path. Protons, on the other hand, are particles that have a mass and a charge (they are positive). They can thus be targeted with exquisite specificity only to the tumor site, emitting the bulk of their radiation there and there only and sparing patients the terrible side effects that can accompany therapy with X rays.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently published its third annual Clinical Cancer Advances report, Clinical Cancer Advances 2007: Major Research Advances in Cancer Treatment, Prevention and Screening . It was developed under the guidance of a 21-person editorial board consisting of leading oncologists and cancer specialists, including specialty editors for each of the disease-specific and issue-specific sections. The report highlights 6 major advances in cancer research in 2007 and describes an additional 18 other findings of significant importance, demonstrating the pace of progress being made in cancer prevention, screening, treatment, epidemiology and survivorship.