PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Another medical first in Philadelphia, proton therapy is expanding to treat more kinds of cancer. A West Chester teenager will be the first patient with Hodgkin’s lymphoma to get the revolutionary therapy.
18-year-old Danielle Palaferro is able to joke about her wig with her best friend. She lost a lot of her hair to chemotherapy, one of the many cruel realities of having cancer.
“I love my hair. I used to want to be a hair model, and it was just ironic that I was losing it,” said Danielle.
In November, this varsity cheerleader was feeling sick. A mass in her chest was diagnosed as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“I think it pretty much stopped all of our worlds. I was scared to death. Scared to death for her,” said Dawn Palaferro, Danielle’s mother.
But fear didn’t stop this senior at Henderson High School. She kept up with everything during months of grueling chemotherapy. And even raised money for a campaign called “Kicking Cancers Butt.”
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“She turned the tables on us. And she actually became the one that was extremely strong,” said Dawn.
“I just kind of accepted it after a while. I was like well I do have it. I can’t change it. I gotta fight it,” said Danielle.
After chemotherapy, radiation was recommended. But that would increase Danielle’s risk for developing breast cancer.
The family didn’t want to trade one cancer for another. The only other option is proton beam therapy at the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s very significant in decreasing long term side effects,” said Dr. Bob Lustig, at The Roberts Proton Therapy Center. He says the revolutionary treatment is now expanding to more patients.
Danielle will be the first Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient to get proton therapy.
“This allows you to spare more normal tissue. You can shape the beam and aim the beam, and not treat anything beyond where you want to treat,” said Dr. Lustig.
Danielle’s treatments don’t start until the end of the month. For now she’s focused on graduating, going to college and the prom, in a special dress
“There’s definitely times that you get sad, and it just kind of hits you. But most of the time, you just think of everyone that loves you,” said Danielle. She will get the proton therapy everyday for three weeks. The treatment is also expanding to treat a variety of recurrent cancers.
The Roberts Center has become an international leader. It’s currently hosting a proton conference for hundreds of medical experts, here in Philadelphia.
The Roberts Proton Therapy Center – http://www.pennmedicine.org/perelman/proton/
Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3