Short-Term Data Shows Proton Radiation Therapy Better Than IMRT

According to a press published by the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access, a trade advocacy group intending to promote the use of Proton Radiation, two presenters provided their findings at the 4th annual Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group – North America (PTCOG-NA) Conference, held October 23rd-25th in Chicago, Ill.

The following is the description, from the press release, of the presented research specific to prostate cancer:

· “William Hartsell, MD from the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center presented a paper that built on previous research on proton therapy using data from the Medicare and the Surveillance Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database. The study found that patients who received proton therapy to treat prostate cancer had a higher likelihood of surviving at five years after treatment (94% versus 87%) with lower risks of bladder complications and a lower chance of being diagnosed with another cancer.”

· “Nancy Mendenhall, MD of the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute (UFPTI) compared results from 1,500 male prostate cancer patients in Florida and Arizona and found that for men who received proton therapy, the likelihood of survival with no evidence of a rise in PSA after five years was 94 percent compared to 87 percent of patients who had been treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Patients who had received proton therapy also had a lower risk of side effects in the rectum and bladder than those who received IMRT.”

It is remarkable how consistent the data offered was between these two studies.  The press release did not provide any statistical analysis of the data so we cannot just assume that the differences are statistically significant, but it does seem as if they probably are significant.  Our other concern is that the data is only over a five (5) year period, for prostate cancer this isn’t enough time to make any long-term judgments about the overall superiority of proton therapy over IRMT.  Prostate cancer needs at least ten (10) years if not fifteen (15) to be considered mature.

Given the significant cost differential between proton therapy and IRMT, not only do we need longer-term information, but we should be looking at a total cost benefit analysis which takes into consideration both the actual cost of the radiation treatment as well as the additional expenses incurred by a man when they have a recurrence. 

Joel T. Nowak, MA, MSW wrote this Post.  Joel is the CEO/Executive Director of Cancer ABCs.  He is a Cancer Thriver diagnosed with five primary cancers - Thyroid, Metastatic Prostate, Renal, Melanoma, and the rare cancer Appendiceal cancer.