The University of Texas MD Anderson Center | Proton Therapy Center

Proton therapy did its job so Ed could keep doing his.
- Ed, librarian and head and neck cancer survivor

The MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center uses innovative technology to effectively treat head and neck tumors, especially ones that are complex and located near vital organs and tissue. Patients undergoing proton therapy treatment have fewer side effects than those receiving chemotherapy or traditional radiation.

Advantages of proton therapy:

  • No irradiation of whole head
  • Reduced damage to eyes, optic nerve, spinal cord, salivary glands and other tissue and organs near the tumor
  • Fewer side effects such as dry mouth or mouth ulcers
  • Decreased chance for loss of taste
  • Decreased need for feeding tubes
  • Decreased need for gastrostomy tubes
  • Non-invasive treatment

Cancers we treat

Head and neck cancers that the Proton Therapy Center treats include:

  • Oropharynx, including the tonsils and base of tongue
  • Periorbital
  • Parotid
  • Nasopharynx
  • Paranasal sinus
  • Oral cavity
  • Larynx
  • Skin
  • Base of skull
  • Nasal cavity
  • Submandibular gland
  • Minor salivary gland

How it works

The Proton Therapy Center's multidisciplinary team of cancer experts is dedicated to helping patients fight cancer.

In order to protect vital organs and tissue during treatment of head and neck tumors, precision is key. Our cancer experts use proton therapy to deliver a higher dose of radiation with pinpoint accuracy to target the specific shape, size and location of the tumor. This targeting reduces damage to eyes, optic nerve, spinal cord, salivary glands and other tissue and organs near the tumor.

Patient stories

The Proton Therapy Center's world-renowned team of radiation oncologists, nurses, therapists, social workers and other cancer specialists is dedicated to providing you the best experience possible. We also have the world's first proton therapy facility located within a comprehensive cancer center, designed to help ensure your optimum treatment plan.

Treatment is delivered in a comfortable outpatient setting. It is non-invasive, painless and typically has no impact on your energy level, so you can get right back to doing the things you love. Treatment varies for each patient, but most are treated daily, Monday through Friday, for eight weeks. Each treatment typically takes about 15 to 30 minutes. Head and neck patients should expect to have a mask created to help them keep their head, neck and shoulders in the same position during treatment.

Though proton therapy has fewer side effects than traditional radiation, potential ones may include:

  • Mouth and gum ulcers
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Need for a feeding tube
  • Hospitalization

Read real stories from Proton Therapy Center patients.

Clinical trials

The Proton Therapy Center uses clinical trials to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Learn about the clinical trials offered by the Proton Therapy Center or browse our list of clinical trials.

Scientific evidence

If you'd like to read more about the effectiveness of proton therapy, please visit the sites below. You will find information on the effectiveness of conventional radiation versus proton treatments, including side effects and outcomes.

  1. Holliday EB and Frank SJ. Proton Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer: A Review of the Clinical Experience to Date. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2014; 89(2):292-302.
  2. Patel SH, Wang Z, Wong WW, Murad MH, Buckey CR, Mohammed K, Alahdab F, Altayar O, Nabhan M, Schild SE, Foote RL. Charged particle therapy versus photon therapy for paranasal sinus and nasal cavity malignant diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Oncology 2014; 15(9): 1027-1038.
  3. Fitzek MM, Thornton AF, Varvares M, et al. Neuroendocrine tumors of the sinonasal tract. Results of a prospective study incorporating chemotherapy, surgery, and combined proton-photon radiotherapy. Cancer. 2002;94:2623–2634.
  4. Okano S, Tahara M, Zenda S, et al. Induction chemotherapy with docetaxel, cisplatin and S-1 followed by proton beam therapy concurrent with cisplatin in patients with T4b nasal and sinonasal malignancies. Jpn. J. Clin. Oncol. 2012;42:691–696.
  5. Zenda S, Kohno R, Kawashima M, et al. Proton Beam Therapy for Unresectable Malignancies of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. 2011;81:1473–1478.
  6. Zenda S, Kawashima M, Nishio T, et al. Proton beam therapy as a nonsurgical approach to mucosal melanoma of the head and neck: a pilot study. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2011;81:135–139.
  7. Lavertu P, Roberts JK, Kraus DH, et al. Squamous cell carcinoma of the paranasal sinuses: the Cleveland Clinic experience 1977-1986. Laryngoscope. 1989;99:1130–1136.
  8. Waldron JN, O'Sullivan B, Warde P, et al. Ethmoid sinus cancer: twenty-nine cases managed with primary radiation therapy. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 1998;41:361–369.
  9. Takeda A, Shigematsu N, Suzuki S, et al. Late retinal complications of radiation therapy for nasal and paranasal malignancies: relationship between irradiated-dose area and severity. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 1999;44:599–605.
  10. Katz TS, Mendenhall WM, Morris CG, et al. Malignant tumors of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Head Neck. 2002;24:821–829.
  11. Lomax AJ, Goitein M, Adams J. Intensity modulation in radiotherapy: Photons versus protons in the paranasal sinus. Radiother. Oncol. 2003;66:11–18.
  12. Mock U, Georg D, Bogner J, et al. Treatment planning comparison of conventional, 3D conformal, and intensity-modulated photon (IMRT) and proton therapy for paranasal sinus carcinoma. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2004;58:147–154.
  13. Fukumitsu N, Okumura T, Mizumoto M, et al. Outcome of T4 (International Union Against Cancer Staging System, 7th edition) or Recurrent Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Carcinoma Treated With Proton Beam. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. 2012;83:704–711.
  14. Zenda S, Kohno R, Kawashima M, et al. Proton beam therapy for unresectable malignancies of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2011;81:1473–1478.
  15. Baumert BG, Norton IA, Lomax AJ, et al. Dose conformation of intensity-modulated stereotactic photon beams, proton beams, and intensity-modulated proton beams for intracranial lesions. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2004;60:1314–1324.
  16. Lin R, Slater JD, Yonemoto LT, et al. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma: Repeat treatment with conformal proton therapy - Dose-volume histogram analysis. Radiology. 1999;213:489–494.
  17. Chan A, Liebsch L, Deschler D, et al. Proton radiotherapy for T4 nasopharyngeal carcinoma. In: Vol 22. Boston, MA: Journal of Clinical Oncology; 2004:5574.
  18. Chan A Proton radiotherapy with chemotherapy for nasopharyngeal carcinoma. ClinicalTrials.gov.
  19. Chan A, Adams JA, Weyman E, et al. A Phase II Trial of Proton Radiation Therapy With Chemotherapy for Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2012;84:S151–S152.
  20. Kam MKM, Leung S-F, Zee B, et al. Prospective randomized study of intensity-modulated radiotherapy on salivary gland function in early-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients. J. Clin. Oncol. Off. J. Am. Soc. Clin. Oncol. 2007;25:4873–4879.
  21. Liu S-W, Li J-M, Chang J-Y, et al. A treatment planning comparison between proton beam therapy and intensity-modulated x-ray therapy for recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma. J. X-Ray Sci. Technol. 2010;18:443–450.
  22. Taheri-Kadkhoda Z, Björk-Eriksson T, Nill S, et al. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy of nasopharyngeal carcinoma: a comparative treatment planning study of photons and protons. Radiat. Oncol. Lond. Engl. 2008;3:4.
  23. Slater JD, Yonemoto LT, Mantik DW, et al. Proton radiation for treatment of cancer of the oropharynx: early experience at Loma Linda University Medical Center using a concomitant boost technique. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2005;62:494–500.
  24. Frank SJ, Cox JD, Gillin M, et al. Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy for Head-and-Neck Cancer: The First Clinical Experience. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2012;84:S475–S476.
  25. Frank SJ et al. Gastrostomy Tubes Decrease by Over 50% with Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT) During the Treatment of Oropharyngeal Cancer Patients: A Case-Control Study. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys.. 2013; 87(2)S144.
  26. Kutcheson K, Lewin JS, Garden AS, et al. Early experience with IMPT for the treatment of oropharyngeal tumors: acute toxicities and swallowing-related outcomes. Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2013;87:S604.
  27. Parsons JT, Bova FJ, Fitzgerald CR, et al. Severe dry-eye syndrome following external beam irradiation. IJROBP 1994;30:775-780.
  28. Barabino S, Raghavan A, Loeffler J, et al. Radiatiotherapy-induced ocular surface disease. Cornea. 2005;24:909-914.
  29. Parsons JT, Fitzgerald CR, Hood CI, et al. The effects of irradiation on the eye and optic nerve. IJROBP. 1983;9;609-622.
  30. Van de Water TA, Bijl HP, Schilstra C, et al. The potential benefit of radiotherapy with protons in head and neck cancer with respect to normal tissue sparing: A systematic review of literature. Oncologist. 2011;16:366–377.
  31. Catton C, O'Sullivan B, Bell R, et al. Chordoma: long-term follow-up after radical photon irradiation. Radiother. Oncol. J. Eur. Soc. Ther. Radiol. Oncol. 1996;41:67–72.
  32. Zorlu F, Gürkaynak M, Yildiz F, et al. Conventional external radiotherapy in the management of clivus chordomas with overt residual disease. Neurol. Sci. Off. J. Ital. Neurol. Soc. Ital. Soc. Clin. Neurophysiol. 2000;21:203–207.

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