MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Steven J. Frank, M.D.
Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology
Medical Director of the Proton Therapy Center
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
MedicalResearch.com Editor’s Note:
A recent research published in Oncology Payers, discusses the quality of life benefits and cost-savings of intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT or proton therapy) with traditional x-ray therapy for advanced stage head and neck cancer. The senior author of the paper, Dr. Steven Frank, highlights two oropharyngeal cancer patients, one of whom received proton therapy and the other x-ray treatments. Both patients received chemotherapy.
The study showed that although the upfront costs of proton therapy were three times that of standard x-ray treatments, the proton therapy patient was spared the necessity of a feeding tube, nutritional and supportive care and weight loss that accompanied the x-ray treatments. By the end of the treatment period, the total care costs for the proton therapy patient were 20% lower than the x-ray treatment plan.
To evaluate the costs, Dr. Frank has been employing a costing tool used elsewhere at MD Anderson called Time-driven Activity-based Costing that places the emphasis on the value of medical care, both monetary and in terms of quality of life. Dr. Frank plans to enroll 360 patients over the next five years as well as to open the study to other cancer centers. He notes that the results will be especially valuable as health insurance companies look to further bundled insurance payments.
Dr. Frank was kind enough to answer several questions regarding his work for the MedicalResearch.com audience.
Medical Research: From a patient’s perspective, what are the main differences between traditional x-ray therapy and proton therapy for cancer treatment?
Dr. Frank: In proton therapy, the radiation hits the cancer, while with traditional x-ray the radiation hits the cancer and the normal tissues in the head and neck, causing more side effects during and after treatment. The main advantage is that proton therapy eliminates unnecessary radiation. As radiation oncologists, our primary goal is to effectively kill cancer while sparing the patient the side effects of excessive radiation. Proton therapy achieves this for many patients with a variety of cancers, including lymphoma, lung, head and neck, prostate, esophageal and pediatric cancers.