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Cancer: Prostate Message Board

Cancer: Prostate Board Index


The economics of Proton Beam therapy boggle my mind. It looks like the kind of technology that will eventually be used around the clock, 365 days a year, and the cost would finally come down, relative to the value of such minimum side effects and down time. It's futuristic to my mind, to think I'll be participating in the next great medical technology for pca.

Isn't that how medicine works? Alot of money was invested in MRI and CT Scan equipment originally, knowing that it will eventually turn a profit. Seems like if the big money is making PBT a reality, they must really believe it will be the best technology for the future.


Guess the point that few seem to know about this is proven by the fact that with all the board participants reading our back and forths, we've heard from no one else. It would be interesting to hear from others if they were counseled at all on this treatment alternative before choosing surgery or seeds or another form of radiation.

You're correct that the costs will come down as utilization is spread among more patients. The new facilities require a very large physical plant and expensive equipment. The capital investment is in the $150 million range. The process is also labor intensive, as physicists are also involved to help map the proper treatments for each patient, and then there are 38 to 42 individual treatment days per patient (duration of each treatment is quick though- generally there are three patients per hour). The doctors work as a team, but one is personally involved with each patient. And there are more initial tests than with surgery. So it's a lot different cost base than for having a several hour prostatectomy with some followup.

As the proton people keep learning more, they may find that treatment dosages can safely be higher than they are now-- that would reduce the number of treatment days and help lower costs. They are also working on ways to enhance the benefits of the radiation, such as with weekly low dosages of chemotherapy for higher risk patients. It will take some time to follow patients that have had chemo along with the radiation, but I understand that preliminary findings are favorable, at least from the perspective of seeing more rapid drops in PSA post treatment than for those not receiving chemo. I did not choose to have it, but there were several that did, while I was there. For many, it left them tired as the cumulative effects added up, but the chemo seemed to be well-tolerated.

While we've been talking about proton use in relation to prostate cancer, this form of treatment offers tremendous hope to those with serious eye and neck tumors, since the radiation beam can be so well targeted. I haven't heard if proton radiation is or will be used as part of Ted Kennedy's treatment at Mass General (they are one of the five present U.S. locations with a proton capability). If anyone knows the answer to that, let us know please.

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