A new cheaper form of proton beam cancer treatment on the way
Tufts-New England Medical Center in Massachusetts plans to make use of proton beams in treating cancerous tumors and has asked state regulators for their blessing to do so. The treatments would apply a new technology and technique that would be potentially cheaper and broaden access to a very advanced type of radiation treatment, the Boston Globe reports.
Proton beams treatment is a well regarded form of cancer therapy because it is very focused and limits radiation exposure to healthy tissue.
The new technology is being developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and availability is hoped for in 2008. The system has a preliminary price tag of $19 million which is many times cheaper than most regular proton therapy systems, the Globe reports.
Tuft’s move is to assure it is the first hospital in the state to offer the new unit. “It has been the dream of every radiation oncologist to have access to a proton beam, but this has been limited because of the enormous expense associated with these facilities," David E. Wazer, PhD, radiation oncologist in chief at Tufts-New England Medical Center, in a Globe interview.         
Tufts projects that it would treat 253 patients in 2009, and by 2012 be able to treat as many as 356, the Globe reports.
These systems would be more cost effective and physically more compact. They could have nationwide implications for smaller hospitals that would be able to afford them, and thus becomes players in areas that have been dominated by large hospitals with the capital to make them available. Most importantly, it could widen access to the treatments to patients that need them. Larger facilities that already have the conventional systems – there are only four in the country – hope that the installing the new systems would reduce backup as patients await treatments using the systems, the Globe reports.
MIT has licensed Still River Systems Inc., of Littleton, Mass. and other subcontractors to manufacture the systems, the Globe reports.