Biological effects of proton radiation: an update

Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2015 Sep;166(1-4):334-8. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncv178. Epub 2015 Apr 20.


Proton radiation provides significant dosimetric advantages when compared with gamma radiation due to its superior energy deposition characteristics. Although the physical aspects of proton radiobiology are well understood, biological and clinical endpoints are understudied. The current practice to assume the relative biological effectiveness of low linear energy transfer (LET) protons to be a generic value of about 1.1 relative to photons likely obscures important unrecognised differentials in biological response between these radiation qualities. A deeper understanding of the biological properties induced by proton radiation would have both radiobiological and clinical impact. This article briefly points to some of the literature pertinent to the effects of protons on tissue-level processes that modify disease progression, such as angiogenesis, cell invasion and cancer metastasis. Recent findings hint that proton radiation may, in addition to offering improved radio-therapeutic targeting, be a means to provide a new dimension for increasing therapeutic benefits for patients by manipulating these tissue-level processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gamma Rays
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control*
  • Proton Therapy*
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Radiation Oncology / methods*
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness


  • Protons