Tags: prostate | cancer | proton | radiation | treatment

Costly Cancer Therapy Offers Little Benefit

Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:30 AM

Despite a great deal of hype over the costly prostate cancer treatment known as proton radiotherapy, a new study has found it offers few advantages over standard radiation in alleviating incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and other side effects.
The study, published by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, dampens hopes that the technique would offer a better alternative to conventional radical prostatectomy and radiation — known as intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) — which can cause side effects.
Proponents of proton radiotherapy have argued that the physical properties of protons may decrease the risk of incontinence and impotence.
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"Proton radiotherapy is increasing in popularity and more and more proton centers are being built throughout the country," said lead researcher James Yu, M.D., assistant professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale Cancer Center. "However, there is a surprising lack of information about whether proton radiotherapy is actually superior to IMRT."
For the study, Yale researchers tracked 30,000 Medicare patients who received treatment with either IMRT or proton radiotherapy from 2008 to 2009. The results showed side effects were slightly lower for proton radiotherapy at six months after treatment, but by 12 months there was no difference.
The researchers noted proton radiotherapy costs $32,000 per course of treatment, compared to less than $19,000 for IMRT.
"We were surprised by these findings," said Cary Gross, a Yale co-researcher. "Cancer centers are paying up to $100 million to build their own proton centers, and patients are travelling long distances to undergo proton therapy because the conventional wisdom has been that proton radiotherapy is better than IMRT. Our results suggest that this enthusiasm for proton therapy may be premature; it remains to be seen how proton radiotherapy will compare to IMRT at 10 or 15 years post-treatment."
The study was funded, in part, by the National Cancer Institute.
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Costly proton radiotherapy has been found to offer no advantage over standard radiation for prostate cancer.
Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:30 AM
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