Access to proton therapy increasing for pediatric patients

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Access to proton therapy increasing for pediatric patients

por Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | March 04, 2019
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
From the March 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“It’s quite a burden for children to be separated from their regular environment,” Rotondo said. “That really helps the patients and their families develop a local sense of community and family support.”

The Maryland Proton Treatment Center has what it calls a Magic Castle that allows children to ask for three wishes that are given to them in the form of gifts funded by the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Typical gifts include flat-screen TVs and laptops, though one child asked for a fence to keep deer out of his mom’s garden, said Dr. William Regine, a radiation oncologist at the center and the Isadore and Fannie Schneider Foxman chairman and professor of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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Construction increasing, but evidence still needed
As the number of proton centers continues to increase, access will get easier, experts say.

The Maryland Proton Treatment Center, which also works with Varian, has been open since February 2016. A little less than 10 percent of the center’s patients are pediatric patients.

“We don’t face significant challenges with access,” Regine said. “I think as other centers come online it gets a little bit easier.”

Varian has seen at least three proton centers using its equipment come online in the last year, in Atlanta, the Netherlands, and the U.K.

Continued research on the advantages of sparing healthy tissue, such as the study done at Northwestern, will ultimately help the case for access.

“We were intrigued by the dramatic improvement in cognitive outcomes with proton therapy in our study,” Gondi said. “It further advances what we’ve come to understand — that the ability of proton therapy to spare surrounding healthy tissue can have meaningful clinical benefits.”

Rotondo agreed that along with the decreasing cost of building proton facilities, with centers moving to more compact, single-room solutions, a growing amount of clinical data, published in journals and presented at national and international conferences, will also play an important role in increasing access.

“As the technology continues to improve and becomes more affordable, the availability of more published data demonstrating its potential benefits will apply increasing pressure toward improving access,” Rotondo said. “As this data grows, there will be greater awareness and greater demand both from medical professionals and also parents, who naturally want access to the best available treatments for their children.”

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