Proton Therapy and Cryosurgery’s Potential for Treatment of Duodenal Cancer

Proton therapy and cryosurgery are two potential treatments seen to combat various types of malignancies.

Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is a more specific type or radiotherapy. It is classified under the external beam type and it works by aiming energized protons into the tumor. The energized particles destroy and damage the DNA of the tumor cells thus causing cell death. The DNA is the primary target of the therapy since cancer cells replicate rapidly but are unable to repair their DNA once damaged. This makes their DNA vulnerable to damaging forces. The protons are concentrated and focused to target the specific area where the tumor is located, and is designed not to go beyond the target range.

How does the Proton Therapy Work?

The proton therapy works at an atomic level. Basically, all tissues in the body are made up of molecules. The molecules are made up of atoms, serving as their building blocks. Each atom has a nucleus orbited by electrons (negatively charged particles). When positively charged protons pass through the negatively charged electrons, the electrons are attracted and are pulled out of their orbits. The event where electrons are pulled out of their orbits by an energized particle, such as a proton, is called ionization.

Ionization changes the structure of the atom thereby affecting the molecules and the tissues in turn. The ionization damages essential cellular parts such as the DNA or the cell’s genetic material. For cancer cells, the extent of DNA damage inflicted by this type of radiation is too extensive, preventing it from repairing its own DNA. This destruction then prevents cancer cells from proliferating further.


Another emerging treatment for duodenal cancer is cryosurgery. Cryosurgery, or cryotherapy, involves freezing the tumor to an ultra low temperature. The frozen tumor is trapped and is rid of its blood supply and oxygen. The depletion of blood supply and oxygen causes cell damage and eventually cell death. Temperature for cryosurgery can reach 120 to 165° C below zero; this temperature causes coagulation necrosis and significant damage to the tissues.

How Does the Cryosurgery Work?

Cryosurgery freezes the tumor by using a needle infused with argon. The argon causes a rapid drop in temperature.  This causes the tumor to form into an ice ball. After the infusing the argon, helium is then injected to heat the ice ball tumor.

This procedure destroys the tissue inside the tumor. Alternating cycles of cooling and heating are done for at least 2 cycles to kill and destroy the cancer cells.

Cryosurgery can be applied to any solid tumors, including malignant tumors; big tumors usually require multiple infusions of argon and helium to successfully eradicate the malignant cells.

Cryosurgery uses needles that can specifically target the tumor’s location, and so damage to the surrounding tissues are minimal. Cryosurgery is also a minimally invasive procedure, thus reducing the risk for bleeding, infection and other post surgical complications.

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