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Radiation Therapy

St. Jude uses the latest radiation therapy methods to treat children with cancer and other conditions, including sickle cell anemia and aplastic anemia.

radiation oncology tech showing imaging to patient family

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a world leader in the use of radiation therapy to treat children with cancer and other illnesses. The Radiation Oncology Department provides expert care to meet your child’s specific treatment needs.

Learn more about the types of radiation therapy on the Together by St. Jude™ online resource. 

Diseases treated with radiation therapy at
St. Jude

Our specialists in radiation therapy treat many different types of serious childhood illnesses, such as:

Radiation therapy clinical trials

St. Jude offers clinical trials and research studies for children, teens, and young adults with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Learn more about clinical research at St. Jude.

NRSTS2021: A Risk Adapted Study Evaluating Maintenance Pazopanib, Limited Margin, Dose-Escalated Radiation Therapy, and Selinexor in Non-Rhabdomyosarcoma Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Study goal:

The purpose of this clinical trial is to find better treatments for NRSTS patients who are intermediate- and high-risk. Our goal is to lower the risk of the tumor coming back after treatment, while using treatments with fewer risks of long-term side effects.


Up to 30 years old.

HALGG: Hippocampal-Avoidance Using Proton Therapy in Children with Brain Tumors

Study goal:

The main purpose of this study is to find out what happens, good and bad, to memory and learning when the hippocampus is avoided during proton therapy radiation.


At least 6 years old and younger than 22

FLOPET: 18F-DA PET Scans for Neuroblastoma and Pheochromocytoma Tumors

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to test the safety of 18F-DA in children with neuroblastoma or pheochromocytoma.


At least 1 year old

RT3CR: Proton Therapy for Pediatric Craniopharyngioma

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to learn if proton therapy will treat patients with craniopharyngioma brain tumors effectively and reduce side effects compared to traditional forms of radiation therapy.


21 years old or younger

cHOD17: Risk-Adapted Therapy for Children and Young Adults with Hodgkin Lymphoma

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to see if this approach can reduce treatment-related late effects in children and young adults with Hodgkin lymphoma.


21 years or younger (low-risk patients)
25 years or younger (high-risk patients)

SJiMB21: Risk-Based Medulloblastoma Treatment for Infants and Young Children

Study goal:

This study uses a risk-directed approach to find out which types of treatment will work best and have the fewest side effects for infants and children with medulloblastoma.


Birth to 5 years old

SJWT21: Study of Proton Therapy in Patients with Wilms Tumor following Nephrectomy

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to find out if proton therapy causes fewer long-term side effects in patients with Wilms tumor than standard radiation treatment.

RMS2021: Using Molecular Risk Stratification and Liposomal Irinotecan in Children with Intermediate-risk and High-risk Rhabdomyosarcoma

Study goal:

To find the most effective treatment for each risk group of rhabdomyosarcoma patients


Up to 21 years old

Why St. Jude for radiation therapy?

We provide the highest quality of care for our patients who need radiation therapy:

  • St. Jude has one of the nation’s largest teams of radiation oncologists who care solely for children.
  • St. Jude is at the forefront of developing ways to reduce or eliminate side effects from radiation therapy.
  • St. Jude offers state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, including proton beam radiation therapy. Proton therapy kills cancer cells while sparing healthy cells, and may lessen the severity of side effects that affect brain function after treatment for some types of brain tumors. The St. Jude Proton Therapy Center is the first center in the world that treats only children with this therapy.
  • Our research studies have guided doctors around the world. These studies have resulted in less radiation given to children over the past 20 years. St. Jude research methods are the model for radiation therapy clinical trials across the U.S. and the world.
  • Our way of doing clinical trials helps guide other national brain tumor trials. We use 2 advanced radiation therapy treatments, known as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) using photons (x-rays) or intensity-modulated proton therapy. These methods help doctors make a 3-D map of the tumor. This helps them aim the radiation directly at the tumor cells to kill them while sparing nearby healthy cells. This approach has helped increase the cure rates of some cancers and reduced side effects for children with some types of brain tumors. 

More reasons to choose St. Jude for care include:

  • We are consistently ranked among the best childhood cancer centers in the nation by US News & World Report.
  • At St. Jude, we have created an environment where children can be children and families can be together.
  • St. Jude patients and families never pay for services authorized by St. Jude.
  • We lead more clinical trials for childhood cancer than any other hospital in the U.S. 
  • St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center just for children. A Comprehensive Cancer Center meets rigorous standards for research that develops new and better approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.
  • The nurse-to-patient ratio at St. Jude is about 1:3 in hematology and oncology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit.

Radiation therapy team

The St. Jude radiation therapy team works closely with other specialists at St. Jude to make sure that your child is getting the best care possible for their needs.

Our team includes:

  • Pediatric radiation oncologists who treat cancers, sickle cell anemia, and aplastic anemia using radiation therapy 
  • Nurse practitioners or physician assistants who assist your oncologist with your child’s care
  • Physicists who understand and guide the use of radiation
  • Anesthesiologists who give special medicines to relieve pain during surgery or procedures
  • Nurses who give specialized care for your child’s disease 
  • Radiation therapists who provide treatment with radiation
  • Child life specialists who use play and relaxation to help your child cope with their treatment and hospital stay
  • Clinical research staff who help manage and perform clinical trials and collect information to learn more about disease treatment

Meet your radiation therapy team.

What to expect during your visit 

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation (electromagnetic waves) aimed at harmful cells to help control your child’s disease.

The radiation oncologist and other members of the care team will talk with you about the best type of therapy for your child and develop a treatment plan.

Depending on your child’s condition and eligibility, the care team may suggest that your child take part in a clinical trial. They will answer any questions you have about treatment and follow-up.


During your consultation, you will meet with members of your care team. They will help answer your questions about treatment.

Your care team will talk to you about informed consent. This is a process in which you give permission before treatment can start. The team will explain the goal of radiation treatment and any radiation side effects your child may have. 


During the simulation phase, the team plans your child’s treatment. If a tumor is found, your child may have a CT scan and MRI to help the team find the tumor’s exact location, size, and shape. The team uses this information to aim the radiation at the correct place to kill the cancer cells and reduce damage to nearby healthy cells. The steps of simulation are:

  • A radiation therapy team may put marks on your child’s skin with a permanent marker or paint pen so they can easily see where to aim the radiation each time. You may wash the area gently but do not scrub. Scrubbing can remove the marks and irritate your child’s skin.
  • Instead of the marker, the team may place very small tattoos (freckle size) on your child’s skin using a very small, sterilized needle.
  • The team may fit your child for a device, which helps keep your child in the same position during each treatment. The device could be a mask or body mold made for your child, which is marked to guide the radiation to the correct place on your child’s body.
  • It is important that your child’s body stays in the correct position during radiation treatment. This helps the radiation therapy kill more cancer cells and reduce the damage to normal cells.

A physicist and radiation oncologist will decide how much radiation to give and where the radiation should be targeted (known as mapping).


The radiation oncologists will tell your child that it is important to be still during the treatment. An anesthesiologist or child life specialist may also help your child to stay comfortable and still during therapy.

Your child will get their radiation treatment as an outpatient, meaning they do not have to stay at the hospital. The care team will tell you how often they need to come, and how long they will need radiation. The therapy plan depends on the type of cancer or anemia your child has.

The radiation oncologist will explain:

  • How long each radiation treatment will take: It may take some time for your child to get into the right position, and this part may take longer than the actual treatment.
  • How long radiation treatment will last: Treatments will often be 4–5 days a week for several weeks, as small daily doses help to protect the skin.
  • How many “rest” days there will be in between treatments: Usually, your child will get rest time on the weekends, as time off helps healthy cells recover.

A scheduler from your child’s care team will help you make the radiation appointments.

Follow-up visits

After treatment, your child’s radiation oncologist will meet with you for follow-up visits. Your child may need more imaging tests, such as CT scans, ultrasounds, or x-rays, to see how well the treatment is working and if the cancer is spreading (known as monitoring). They will also note any side effects your child may have.

Learn more