Proton Therapy

Five-year-old Logan completed proton therapy in September for an aggressive brain tumor. Read about his amazing journey.

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Rady Children’s has partnered with Scripps Health to offer pediatric and young adult patients proton therapy. This highly advanced therapy is provided at the Scripps Proton Therapy Center, the only proton beam center in San Diego and just one of four west of the Rockies.

Proton therapy has been successfully used with children for more than 20 years. It is considered ideal for pediatric patients, as it provides a more precise and aggressive approach to destroying certain cancers compared to conventional X-ray radiation.

The therapy involves the use of a controlled beam of protons to target tumors with control and precision unavailable in other radiation therapies. At the Scripps Proton Therapy Center, this therapy can be delivered even more accurately with pencil beam technology. The targeted delivery of proton energy limits damage to healthy surrounding tissue and allows for a more potent and effective dose of radiation to be used.

Less damage to the healthy surrounding tissue is especially important for children, as it means less damage to growing organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs. As a result, long-term complications associated with X-ray therapy are significantly reduced as well, such as growth and hormonal deficiencies and the risk of secondary cancers later in life.

Treatment is provided by the Proton Therapy team, which includes radiation oncologist Dr. Andrew Chang, certified oncology nurses, radiation therapists, medical dosimetrists, medical physicists and an anesthesiologist.

As California’s only program providing the most advanced proton therapy for pediatric central nervous system tumors, Rady Children’s will serve as the neuro-oncology referral center for the western United States. Pediatric patients, both here in San Diego and referred from out of the area, will be followed by our Neuro-Oncology team during their treatment.

The 102,000-square-foot Scripps Proton Therapy Center has the capacity to treat approximately 2,400 pediatric and adult patients annually.

Cancers Treated

Proton therapy can be used to treat the following tumors in children and young adults:

Brain and central nervous system cancers

  • Astrocytoma
  • Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (ATRT)
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Intracranial germ cell tumors (germinoma)
  • Low-grade glioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Optic nerve tumors
  • Optic pathway/hypothalamic glioma
  • Primitive neuro-ectodermal tumor (intracranial PNET)
  • Spinal cord tumors

Solid tumors

  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Chordoma
  • Ewing sarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (and other soft tissue sarcomas)
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Tumors of the head and neck
  • Wilms tumor


  • Hodgkin
  • Non-Hodgkin

Team Approach

The decision to use proton beam therapy for a particular patient involves a team approach. Here at Rady Children’s, we have a multidisciplinary Neuro-Oncology Tumor Board, with specialists in neuro-oncology, oncology, radiation oncology, neurosurgery, pathology and radiology. Tumor board members will review the imaging, pathology, clinical condition and treatment plan of each patient presented. The goal is to choose the best treatment plan for each patient through group discussion and consensus.

Our Neuro-Oncology team will collaborate with Scripps cancer specialists on treatment planning.

What to Expect

Patients will typically receive approximately 30 treatments during a four- to six-week period. Each treatment lasts for approximately 15 to 25 minutes, after which the patient is free to carry on with daily activities. Some patients may need anesthesia, requiring them to be at the facility for several hours while they are prepped for and then recover from sedation.

Child-Centered Care

Rady Children’s patients and their families have a dedicated entrance to the Scripps Proton Therapy Center, as well as child-friendly reception and recovery areas.

In the News

Proton Therapy Offers Beam of Hope,

Proton Therapy is Final Step in Amazing Recovery,

5-Year-Old Brain Cancer Patient to Start Kindergarten After Proton Therapy,

Teen Hopes Proton Therapy Puts an End to Her TumorU-T San Diego

Video: First pediatric patient receives proton therapy