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IN A 1969 address to the American Society of Therapeutic Radiologists, Mary Catterall, MD, a British radiologist, predicted that ultimately all radiotherapists would be using neutrons to treat some patients. But since that early enthusiasm, there has been a steady "decrescendo" of interest, to quote one radiologist.
Decrescendo is not disappointment, however, say neutron researchers. Rather, while it appears that neutron treatments are not a better form of radiotherapy overall, they may have specific applications. Recent results indicate that neutron radiotherapy is an effective treatment for bone and soft tissue sarcomas, for adenocarcinomas— in particular, salivary gland tumors— and for locally advanced prostate cancers.
Robert Stone, MD, is believed to be the first physician to attempt treating patients with neutrons—in 1939 at the E. O. Lawrence Cyclotron in Berkeley, Calif, barely seven years after the British physicist Sir John Chadwick first identified the particle. But Stone's results were poor, his
Kirn TF. Neutrons Show Promise in Treating Some Sarcomas, Adenocarcinomas, Locally Advanced Prostate Cancers; Research Continues. JAMA. 1987;258(13):1700-1701. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400130014004