Detailed data on the use of proton beam radiation therapy centers


A presentation at the annual meeting of ASTRO in Boston last week has given us some detailed insight into exactly how many men in America with prostate cancer are getting treated each year with proton beam radiation therapy (PBRT).

In his presentation, Hartsell reported that the numbers for prostate cancer were

  • 2,336 in 2012 (out of 5,377 PBRT cases in total)
  • 2,094 in 2013
  • 2,355 in 2014
  • 2,311 in 2015 (out of 7,711 PBRT cases in total)

which means that the annual prostate cancer caseload for PBRT has been stable for 4 years.

According to a detailed report on this presentation on the MedPage Today web site, Hartsell is quoted as stating that:

Despite the publicity that is given to proton therapy about prostate cancer, and despite the fact that there are double the number of proton centers from the time of the 2012 survey to the time of the 2015 survey, the number of prostate cancer patients treated is basically the same. … That actually means that the number of prostate cancer patients treated per center is going down.

This can hardly be good news for all those PBRT centers that are already up and running … and still less good news for the other ones that are projected to come available over the next 4 or 5 years. Again according to Hartsell:

Currently, 24 proton centers are in operation, and another 10 are expected to open within the next year and a half.

Apparently prostate cancer remains the cancer most treated with PBRT, so there is also no sign (yet) that other forms of cancer are more highly treatable with PBRT than with other, modern forms of radiation therapy.

The article on the MedPage Today site does also address the cost issues related to building, maintaining, and then actually treating patients at a PBRT center. Only about 1 percent of all patients receiving radiation therapy each year in America are getting treated at PBRT centers.

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