An international manhunt for a five-year-old UK cancer patient whose parents sought out cutting-edge proton beam radiation therapy in Spain, against the wishes of UK public health authorities, has highlighted the rise of next-generation radiation therapy technologies that are more accurate and expose patients to less radiation. In response to an increase in interest about proton beam therapy, scientists from MD Anderson‘s Proton Therapy Center recently reported that intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT) is in fact more cost-effective in treating advanced stage head and neck cancer when compared to standard IMRT (radiation therapy) — a revelation that could further encourage healthcare institutions to invest in the new technology.
Dr. Steven J. Frank, MD Anderson Cancer Center’s medical director and associate professor of radiation oncology, said that even though this particular study involved a relatively small number of subjects, its findings underscore the need for radiologists and oncologists to be more forward-thinking with regard to how much a particular method of cancer care would end up costing, in proportion to its efficacy.
The study, which is currently available in International Journal of Radiation, Oncology, Biology, Physics, entitled, “Multifield Optimization Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy for Head and Neck Tumors: A Translation to Practice,” notes that the procedure can be safely applied to long-term projections of health costs. This is especially true with head and neck cancers, as patients diagnosed with these diseases tend to be young adults, seeking to live well into their senior years.
Researchers at the center discovered that, even though each session of proton therapy costs triple that of standard radiation therapy, the latter did not do much to improve the patient’s‘ condition and quality of life, and therefore, incurred further spending. Upon completing the required number of sessions, IMPT cost 20% less than IMRT.
Cancer care at MD Anderson not only strives to be top notch and accessible, but dynamic as well. Last month, health insurance company Aflac presented the 2014 Duckprints Award to three local participants of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Children’s Art Project for their contribution to battling childhood cancer.