The hadrontherapy treatment
The radiation treatment with hadrontherapy involves the use of hadrons (protons and carbon ions) as an alternative to the X-rays used in traditional radiotherapy. The physical properties of hadrons make hadrontherapy more beneficial than radiotherapy for two main reasons:
- hadrons allow to attack the tumour with extreme precision, keeping the healthy tissues located nearby safe.
- hadrons allow carbon ions to produce 3 times more damage to the DNA of tumour cells than X-rays; they are therefore effective to treat radio-resistant tumours.
The advantages of hadrontherapy in paediatric tumours
In some cases, the hadrontherapy treatment, in particular with protons, may also be useful for the treatment of paediatric tumours. For this type of tumours, the advantage of hadrontherapy that is sought after is connected with the need to better preserve healthy tissues and to avoid unnecessary irradiation.
In fact, most of the tumours that affect children involve the encephalon, and it is clear that a therapy that is able to preserve healthy brain tissues is preferable to another one with greater side effects if both of them have the same effectiveness.
Reducing the dose to healthy tissues drastically reduces the risk of developing secondary tumours once children become adults.
How can I request the treatment with hadrontherapy of a paediatric tumour?
All adult patients can send their clinical documentation to CNAO, even independently, for a preliminary verification of treatability. For paediatric patients, the procedure is different. Given the peculiarity of this field, CNAO has decided NOT to take into consideration the requests for treatment that arrive independently.
The clinical documentation regarding paediatric patients and the related requests for treatability with hadrontherapy must be sent to CNAO by the paediatric oncology centre that treats the child, in order to guarantee the continuity of the clinical pathway in a multidisciplinary perspective. Paediatric oncologists who wish to contact CNAO can reach us at 0382/078501.
In evaluating the effective clinical advantage of treatment with radiant protons compared to traditional radiotherapy, we are committed to maintaining an active discussion and participation with the reference radiotherapist specialist of the paediatric oncology centre.
The journey of MeV, the Superhero
What you see in the images below is MeV, the little dog that is the star of the illustrated book "The journey of MeV, the Superhero". Every paediatric patient treated at CNAO is presented with the book and a puppet in the shape of this puppy.
It tells the story of a little dog who, after being hit by a lunar ray (symbol of the disease) must undertake a trip to the Moon to find the elf that holds the recipe that can heal him. During this mission, which ends with the return to Earth of the protagonist who is welcomed with a big party, MeV travels on board a spacecraft that looks very much alike the equipment that children will find at CNAO. He is accompanied and helped by Dr Proton, whose manners and way of behaving are very similar to those of one of our paediatric radiotherapists.
This initiative was born from an idea by Alice Mancin and Sandra Montana, two young medical radiology technicians of CNAO, and supervised by psychologist Massimiliano Mariani. Its objective is to reassure children about their therapeutic pathway and make the environment as comfortable and familiar as possible. MeV, in fact, thanks to Silvio Irilli, artist and founder of the "Ospedali Dipinti" project, cheers up the walls of the room that our facility has dedicated to children.
However, the MeV puppy is not the only superhero that supports our little patients. In order to facilitate one of the most demanding moments required by the hadrontherapy pathway, that is the construction of the thermoplastic immobilization mask, our technical-healthcare staff has conceived the idea of painting the faces of children's favourite characters on this masks- Spider Man or Winnie The Pooh (as well as MeV himself, of course)- to reassure children and make them experience hadrontherapy as calm as possible.