There are Still Uncertainties about the Benefits of Proton-Beam Radiotherapy (PRT) over Conventional Radiotherapy

February 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

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Radiotherapy is a treatment procedure in which high intense ultra violet ray is administered on a patient with cancer to destroy the affected cells.

It is one of the common known treatments for prostate cancer while others include surgery and chemotherapy, etc. Radiotherapy has its demerits of which a notable case is when non-cancerous cells are destroyed by the high intensive radiation light.

Many types of radiation treatments have been developed and Proton-Beam Radiotherapy (PRT) is one of them. This procedure helps to treat cancer cells better without damage to the unaffected cells.

However, PRT has been criticized as been expensive without being a better treatment than the conventional treatment. The extract below reveals more details on why the uncertainly about proton-beam Radiotherapy still lingers:

Proton-beam radiotherapy (PRT) is much more expensive than conventional radiotherapy, but is it any better? The question is unanswered because few studies have compared the 2 directly.

The main claim is that PRT is safer than conventional radiotherapy.

“Proton therapy gives us a better dose distribution, so there is less harm to healthy tissue,” William Hartsell, MD, medical director of ProCure’s Proton Therapy Center in Chicago, Illinois, told Medscape Medical News. “This therapy is particularly valuable in children,” he explained, because radiotherapy can be quite damaging and have long-term effects in this population.

Because proton treatment is so much less damaging to normal tissue, the course of treatment can be compressed, he added.

It is being used in a variety of adult malignancies, including tumors of the brain, central nervous system, head and neck, lung, and prostate. “The precision of proton therapy has made it possible to reach tumors at the base of skull and along the spinal cord, which are very difficult to treat,” said Dr. Hartsell. “We are able to effectively treat more of these patients now.”

Increasing Use of Proton Therapy

The first proton accelerator for medicinal use was located at Loma Linda University in California in 1990. There are currently 10 centers in operation in the United States and 9 in various stages of development, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy. By mid-2008, almost 20,000 patients had been treated with PRT in the United States, and more than 30,000 had been treated globally.

There are centers in China, Japan, and in several European countries, although there are still only about 40 worldwide, Dr. Hartsell noted. “But there has been substantial growth over the past decade, and we may be looking at 50 or even 70 centers in the next 10 years.”

However, the increasing interest in PRT has been criticized. In an opinion piece published in New York Times last year, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, an oncologist and former adviser to President Barack Obama, criticized the Mayo Clinic for building 2 proton-beam facilities, at a cost of more than $180 million each. He referred to it as being part of a “medical arms race,” and noted that PRT, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars, has not been proven to be better than less expensive options for many patients.

It is “crazy medicine and unsustainable public policy,” he wrote.

The higher price would be worth it if PRT cured more people or significantly reduced adverse effects. But to date, the evidence is not there, save for a “handful of rare pediatric cancers,” such as brain and spinal cord cancer, he explained.

“For children, the treatment does a better job of limiting damage to normal brain cells and reducing the risk of cognitive impairment and hearing loss,” Dr. Emanuel wrote. However, fewer than 3500 children are diagnosed with these cancers each year. It is impossible to keep the “existing proton-beam centers in full use, much less the approximately 20 others in planning or construction, with so few patients.”

This is why patients with other types of cancer, most notably that of the prostate, have been targeted, he noted. Click here to read the full extract.

Finally, from the facts presented in the extract above, the importance of administering the Proton-Beam Radiotherapy (PRT) cannot be overemphasized. However, we are still reminded of the fact that the benefits this treatment have over conventional radiotherapy are yet to be clearly proven.

These facts still remains and issue of concern that still lingers.PRT is an expensive procedure compared to conventional radiotherapy and it requires huge investment to establish its facilities. Perhaps, from the above article we can readily make decisions on which of the radiation types to go for.

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