Proton Beam Therapy and Standard Radiation Therapy – Which Is Better?

May 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

The answer to the question above would possible be provided in the next five years. This would be when a new study initiated by the Massachusetts General Hospital is going to determine which of the above treatments for prostate cancer offers better care and quality of life for patients.

There have been controversies in the medical field about the overall effects of Proton Beam Therapy compared to the use of standard radiation treatments. The former treatment is also a very expensive one and many still wonders if undergoing this therapy is really worth the costs, efforts, and time for it. All these questions are expected to be answered after the conclusion of the five-year massive research.

An online excerpt to the above topic provides you more details are highlighted below:

Massachusetts General Hospital in the next few weeks will launch a large, long-awaited test of whether a controversial cutting-edge proton beam therapy is more effective than standard radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

Proton beam therapy, a targeted and controlled way to administer radiation to a tumor, has become a flashpoint in the debate over health care reform.

The expensive therapy is being used across the country and in some cases advertised directly to the general public before it has been deemed superior to standard radiation treatment, which costs about half as much. For years, doctors and federal health agencies have called for a scientific study like the one led by Mass. General, which will enroll its first patients by early June.

The five-year study will take place at a half-dozen centers across the country, including the University of Pennsylvania.

During that span, the number of therapy facilities, each of which can cost as much as $200 million to build, is projected to at least double across the country.

“Is the additional cost for proton beam therapy worth it?’’ said Dr. Jason Efstathiou, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School and Mass. General. “Ultimately, we need to figure out if these new emerging high-technology therapies being introduced into medical care provide a benefit. . . . This trial will determine whether or not the more expensive therapy leads to a better quality of life.’’

Proton therapy has theoretical advantages: It allows doctors to precisely target radiation to reach a certain depth in the body, which can reduce exposure and possibly mitigate side effects. But there is little consensus on whether that translates to better care, except in a handful of rare cancers – including pediatric cancers of the brain and nervous system or cancers in delicate areas such as the eye.

“By exposing less normal tissue to radiation, you will ultimately cause fewer secondary malignancies; that’s one of the serious, devastating late effects of radiation in children,’’ said Dr. Karen Marcus, a pediatric radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center.

But thus far, studies of proton therapy in prostate cancer – far more common than those rare cancers – have had limitations and provided mixed results. And it costs significantly more: around $48,000, or double that of standard radiation therapy, according to a 2008 report from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology’s emerging technology committee published a review earlier this year that said proton beam therapy was effective in treating prostate cancer, but found no evidence it was better than standard radiation therapy. Click here to read the full excerpt.

The above details on the research work to be conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital are sure to bring results that would truly be useful in prostate cancer treatments. This clinical trial is going to be expensive but it is expected to yield better results after the next five years.

Finally, the application of Proton Beam Therapy and standard radiation treatment on prostate cancer victims are most often recommended. We are going to wait for the result of the study to know which of these two actually offer the best health care for patients. Good Luck in advance to the researcher at MGH!

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