Member Bob Clark wrote a lengthy report on his Proton Beam treatment at Loma Linda years ago. It is available here.
MY EXPERIENCES AT LOMA LINDA – by Bob Clark December 21, 2004
I was age 66 when diagnosed with prostate cancer. No symptoms whatsoever.
Physically active, generally good health, recently married, active sex life. PSA: 10/2002 – 2.0;
8/2003 – 6.5; 4/2004 – 4.03. Two biopsies (12 core samples each time): 12/2003 – one precancerous
area; 5/2004 – cancer in both hemispheres of the prostate, 3 of 6 quadrants, 2 to 4% of the sample
tissue was cancerous. Digital Rectal Exam: – negative. Gleason: 6.0. Stage: T1c based on DRE,
or T2a clinical based on cancer found in both hemispheres of prostate.
I heard of Loma Linda University Hospital and Proton Radiation Therapy through a tennis playing
friend who referred me to his minister who had sent a number of men in his congregation to LL, and
through Bill Wible of the Albuquerque Prostate Support Group who had completed treatment at LL
December 2003. Bill acquainted me with the Proton Bob web site and gave me the name of Ken
Paul, an Albuquerque resident and friend of 35 years who had completed his treatment at LL in
Sent LL information on my diagnosis and relevant medical history on June 10th. LL called me June
15th for insurance information. I visited LL July 15th for consultation and was accepted for
treatment in October (my choice). Visited LL again September 27th to have a CAT scan and b
How radiation works: I was told that proton radiation and conventional (photon) radiation work the
same way; they damage the DNA of the cells they come in contact with. Cancer cells, because they
divide more frequently than normal cells, have more fragile DNA and cannot repair themselves in
the time between treatments. Normal cells can and do have time to repair their DNA. When the
cells reach their normal life expectancy and die, the normal cells regenerate themselves while the
cancer cells die out.
Radiation is either diagnostic, as in the case of an Xray, or therapeutic, as in cancer
treatment. Conventional (photon) radiation sends a stream of electrons all the way through the
body. Electrons are light weight particles and tend to scatter when they collide with atoms in the
body’s cells. The doctor has to put a lot of conventional radiation into the patients body in order to
get the required dose of therapeutic radiation into the tumor. Photon radiation causes damage to the
tissue along it’s entire path as it passes through the body. Radiologists try to minimize this damage
by using different entry points and allow the individual beams to converge in the area of the tumor.
Protons are heavier than electrons and less susceptible to scatter when they hit other atoms in the
body’s cells. They also have a unique characteristic that they can be stopped at the tumor and
deposit most of their energy in the tumor. LL claims that proton radiation can be stopped within 1
millimeter of the intended target. In my case radiation was applied through my right hip one day and
through my left hip the next, alternating back and forth with each treatment.
Why LL? Until recently LL was the only location in the United States that offered proton radiation.
They built their facility in 1990 with the technical help of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The
proton accelerator and four treatment rooms were a $100 million investment. Harvard Medical
School (Massachusetts General Hospital) brought a facility on line in 2002 and the University of
Indiana proton facility began treatment in 2004. MD Anderson in Houston is breaking ground in
2005 for their facility. LL has the capability of treating 160 patients a day. The treatment rooms
run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and are used to treat tumors of the prostate, brain,
eye, spine, lung, and other organs, as well as macular degeneration. LL is under contract to the
Department of Defense to determine if proton radiation can be used to treat breast cancer. Five year
cancer free survival rates after proton treatment is equal to or better than other therapies (surgery,
photon radiation, etc.) but proton treatment produces fewer side effects.
Insurance: There was no cost to me other than living expenses. Medicare and my secondary
insurance paid for all medical treatment.
Tremendous! LL sends new patients a packet that includes information on housing
options in the immediate area for all budgets. Patient pot luck dinners Monday and Tuesday nights
each week at two different apartment complexes are open to all proton patients and spouses,
regardless of where they live. Support group meeting at the hospital Wednesday night are open to
all with guest speakers and lots of jokes from the MC. There is a weekly wife’s support
group/luncheon for ladies only. There is a dinner at the restaurant-of- the-week on Thursday nights.
Patients and spouses have the use of the full university athletic center facilities and library available
to them at no charge. There are lots of golf courses and other attractions in the area. My nine
weeks at LL passed very quickly and my wife and I made many new friends.
Contact: LL Proton Referral Office 800-496-4966 or 909-558-4288. Good information is available
on the Internet at www.llu.edu/proton/ and at www.protonbob.com.
Update 11/02/2015: PSA 0.17 ng/ml