For Immediate Release:
January 23, 2024 – The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT), the nation’s leading organization dedicated to increasing patient access to one of the most advanced cancer treatments, today announced the publication of a study in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology-Biology-Physics (Red Journal) that examines the use of proton therapy to treat a growing number of conditions and tumor sites.
Based on NAPT member survey data and other sources, “Temporal Evolution and Diagnostic Diversification of Patients Receiving Proton Therapy in the United States: A Ten-Year Trend Analysis (2012-21) from the National Association for Proton Therapy” largely debunks the misperception that proton therapy is used primarily as a treatment for prostate cancer.
The study reports that there is “a clear and pressing need for accurate data regarding the number of patients treated with protons for various diagnoses,” which is useful “to help evaluate accrual to these trials and design new trials, and to help guide health policy decisions, rather than to base those decisions on speculation or legacy and outdated data.”
“The great news from this study is that more patients are able to access this advanced, precise form of cancer treatment,” said the study’s author, William F. Hartsell, MD, former Medical Director at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center. “This is especially important for certain patients. For example, three times as many children are now able to receive this more targeted type of treatment compared to 10 years ago. As more studies have shown benefits for proton therapy, there has also been an increase in the use of proton therapy for certain other cancer types, such as breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers, and gastrointestinal cancers.”
“The use of proton therapy is evolving, and the types of patients treated is changing based on a growing body of evidence and clinical research,” said NAPT Executive Director Jennifer Maggiore. “Our members are committed to research that contributes to improving outcomes for cancer patients. And while developing research is challenging with limited availability of the technology and restrictive commercial insurance policies, NAPT will continue to encourage cooperative research and innovation to advance the appropriate and cost-effective utilization of proton therapy.”
As the number of patients receiving proton therapy increased from 5,377 in 2012 to 15,829 in 2021, a greater proportional increase was found among more complex conditions such as breast, cancers of the head and neck, and gastrointestinal tumors. From 2012-2021, the proportional mix of conditions treated by proton therapy changed as follows, by cancer type:
- Breast: Increased from 1.7% to 9.2%
- GI Tract: Increased from 3.2% to 7.0%
- Head and Neck: Increased from 5.9% to 14.5%
- Prostate: Decreased from 43.4% to 25.0%
The number of prostate cancer patients treated with proton therapy remained stable, but the proportion relative to the total number of proton patients treated decreased – from 43.4% to 25.0%
The study also noted an increasing number of proton facilities operating outside the United States. There are nearly 110 protons centers worldwide, with more in the planning or construction phases. These include three proton centers in the Netherlands, with a national population of only 17 million. The study attributes the increase in proton therapy availability to the development of smaller facilities (1-2 rooms) compared to larger centers (3-5 treatment rooms), and to the “increasing acceptance that achieving dosimetric superiority in reducing and avoiding unnecessary radiation dose to organs-at-risk is a universal and foundational goal based on first principles of therapeutic radiation delivery.”
“It is interesting to note that proton therapy development is increasing worldwide due to the more affordable single room centers and the increasing acceptance of the value of avoiding unnecessary radiation to healthy tissue,” said Maggiore. “As the number of conditions treated expands in number and variety, proton therapy continues to gain acceptance and recognition as an increasing number of patients experience this life-saving, life-changing treatment.”
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The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1990 to educate and increase awareness about the clinical benefits of proton therapy. Its members include 47 of the nation’s leading cancer centers, many of which are NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers and NCCN members. The mission of NAPT is to work collaboratively to raise public awareness of the clinical benefits of proton therapy, ensure patient choice and access to affordable proton therapy, and encourage cooperative research and innovation to advance the appropriate and cost-effective utilization of proton therapy.