Loma Linda University researchers are studying how proton therapy can be used to help relieve chronic pain afflicting US military service members and veterans.

“Our study is focusing on the nerve areas where the pain is coming from. We are targeting those areas with proton beam radiation to neutralize the pain so the brain doesn’t interpret it as a painful area,” says Jerry D. Slater, MD, chairman and medical director of the Loma Linda University Cancer Center (LLUCC)’s Department of Radiation Medicine and James M. Slater, MD, Proton Treatment & Research Center, in a media release from Loma Linda University Medical Center.

“We hope that by neutralizing the pain, we can help decrease the need for pain medication, which not only is expensive, but can also have disabling side effects,” he adds.

Proton beams are specifically programmed to reach the exact depth needed to release their maximum energy, which targets only the designated treatment area while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. As a result, the treatment benefits are significantly maximized while unwanted side effects are greatly reduced, the release explains.

According to the release, a June 2014 report in JAMA Internal Medicine notes that 44% of US military veterans suffer from chronic pain, compared to 26% of the general public, and costs the American healthcare system $635 billion per year.

“Through this study, we hope to ameliorate the chronic pain that affects so many veterans so they can truly enjoy the life they fought so hard to preserve,” Slater states in the release.

For more information, visit Loma Linda University Medical Center.

[Source(s): Loma Linda University Medical Center, Business Wire]