Discussing the role of proton therapy and the importance of the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT)

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Discussing the role of proton therapy and the importance of the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT)

par Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | April 17, 2020
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
From the April 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

AG: It’s a little bit of both. For our system, they’re rotating shifts. They’re at our site 24-7, but also bring in specialists, if necessary, for scheduled maintenance and repairs.

HCB News: As far as that 24-7 goes, does that mean your utilization is at full capacity? Are you on a totally booked schedule?
AG: The way it generally works is that centers have clinical access to the system to be able to treat patients about 16 hours a day. Our vendor has access to the machine the other eight hours to do preventative maintenance and fix anything that needs to be repaired. Since the machine is always on, they always need someone there to monitor it. You can’t just turn a cyclotron off. We operate to ensure that we meet the needs of those requiring this technology.

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HCB News: Can you provide an update on how the reimbursement battle is going for proton therapy?
AG: For the Cincinnati Children’s Proton Therapy Center, we treat children and young adults. The insurance companies, almost without exception, see the value of proton therapy for children. The adult reimbursement landscape is more scattershot, but with more and better research results developing, reimbursement is improving, although still not where it should be. NAPT works diligently to advocate to ensure access to proton therapy.

HCB News: Has there been any expansion in the approved types of use for PT over the past 12 months?
AG: There are some exciting studies coming out. There’s something called the abscopal effect for instance, where when you combine proton therapy with immunotherapy, you not only get the benefit of the cancer killing where you’re actually treating it with radiation, you get it in other areas of the body.

Recently released research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that patients receiving concurrent chemotherapy and radiation had fewer unplanned hospitalizations when they received proton therapy compared to conventional radiation therapy. This is a critical study and will lead to other research demonstrating the value of proton therapy.

HCB News: Compared to other methods, how effective is proton therapy in eradicating cancer?
AG: Some studies show it may be better in certain circumstances. Essentially, the radiation is the radiation, so it’s not that proton therapy is better at killing tumors, but rather it is better at avoiding near term and long term complication as a result of avoiding radiating healthy tissue on your way to treating the cancer.

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