Proton therapy is a cost-effective treatment for pediatric brain tumor patients

September 23, 2013

Proton therapy, an external beam radiotherapy in which protons deliver precise radiation doses to a tumor and spare healthy organs and tissues, is cost-effective in treating medulloblastomas, fast-growing brain tumors that mainly affect children, when compared to standard photon radiation therapy, according to research presented today at the American Society for Radiation Oncology's (ASTRO's) 55th Annual Meeting.

The study used a first-order Monte Carlo simulation model to examine a population of 18-year old survivors of medulloblastoma who were assumed to have been diagnosed at age 5 and at risk of developing 10 adverse health events, including various hormone deficiencies, , , ototoxicity, secondary malignant neoplasm and death. Primary institutional information on the cost of investment and Medicare data regarding the cost of management of the various adverse health conditions, in addition to peer-reviewed publications analyzing incidence of side effects were used in the simulation model to perform a cost-effectiveness analysis comparing proton and photon therapy from the societal perspective. Outcomes were measured in incremental cost-effectiveness ratios, with costs measured in 2012 U.S. dollars (USD), and effectiveness measured in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). A societal willingness-to-pay (WTP) threshold of $50,000/QALY was the benchmark.

The clinical benefits of have been recognized in reducing side effects when compared to photon therapy, but the significant expense of building and maintaining proton facilities and the high treatment costs have been areas of concern. The study's results demonstrate that by avoiding years of costly side effects, proton therapy can be cost-effective for children with medulloblastoma. Using current risk estimates and data on required capital investments, proton therapy for pediatric medulloblastoma treatment was not only cost-effective compared to standard photon radiation, but also found to be cost-saving in many simulations.

Results from the base case analysis showed that due to the prevention of side effects, proton therapy was cost-saving. In sensitivity analyses, proton therapy strongly remained the more appealing treatment, in part due to decreased risks of hearing loss, secondary malignancy and heart failure, resulting in cost-savings in more than 95 percent of simulations.

"We believed that proton therapy might prove to be cost-effective in treating pediatric brain tumors, and we were intrigued that it also proved to be cost-saving in the base case and in almost all of the sensitivity analysis simulations," said Raymond Mailhot Vega, MD, MPH, the presenting author of the study; a resident at Mount Auburn Hospital, the teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School; and a 2014 resident at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "Proton therapy might prove to be both cost-effective and cost-saving for other malignancies, too, and consequently, more cancer patients may benefit from proton therapy."

Explore further: Proton therapy effective prostate cancer treatment

More information: The abstract, "Cost-Effectiveness of Proton Therapy Compared to Photon Therapy in the Management of Pediatric Medulloblastoma," will be presented in detail during a scientific session at ASTRO's 55th Annual Meeting at 1:45 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, September 23, 2013.

Related Stories

Proton therapy effective prostate cancer treatment

January 5, 2012

Proton therapy, a type of external beam radiation therapy, is a safe and effective treatment for prostate cancer, according to two new studies published in the January issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology•Biology•Physics ...

Investment in proton beam therapy for cancer may be premature

April 18, 2012

Both the US and UK are pouring money into building proton accelerators to treat cancer. They have been described as the world's "most costly medical devices" but in an article published in the British Medical Journal today, ...

New merciful treatment method for children with brain tumors

October 15, 2012

Children who undergo brain radiation therapy run a significant risk of suffering from permanent neurocognitive adverse effects. These adverse effects are due to the fact that the radiation often encounters healthy tissue. ...

Recommended for you

Elephants provide big clue in fight against cancer

October 9, 2015

Carlo Maley spends his time pondering pachyderms—and cactuses and whales, and a wide array of non-human species—all in pursuit of the answer to this question: Why do some life forms get cancer while others do not?

Compound doubles up on cancer detection

October 8, 2015

Tagging a pair of markers found almost exclusively on a common brain cancer yields a cancer signal that is both more obvious and more specific to cancer, according to a study published last week in the Proceedings of the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.