When someone is going through cancer treatment, unplanned hospitalizations and severe side effects can severely impact their health as well as treatment outcomes. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December of 2019 highlights the benefits of proton therapy over traditional radiation therapy.

Recent Research
Brian C. Baumann, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues compared any negative patient outcome over the course of 90 days among 1,483 adult patients with nonmetastatic, locally advanced cancers treated with either proton therapy or photon therapy (traditional radiation therapy) along with chemotherapy.

The patients who underwent proton therapy were two-thirds less likely to have a severe negative event such as hospitalization or severe side effects over the 90 day time period. Proton therapy was also associated with half the risk of a decline in health during treatment compared with photon therapy.

There is a shortage of information when it comes to comparing the overall survival outcomes of proton versus photon therapy. Still, this study does shed some very hopeful light on the topic of quality of life. The patients taking part in the study who received proton therapy were typically about five years older than the ones who received photon therapy. Because proton therapy is proving to be easier on the body, it is allowing older patients with more chronic diseases or conditions to receive the most effective treatment without fear of life-altering side effects.

We also learned in this study published in October of 2019; proton therapy does a better job at targeting the tumor and sparing the healthy tissue. This lowers the risk of unwanted side effects and secondary cancer in the future. When choosing between two treatment options that both offered the same survival outcome, but one offered a better quality of life outcomes, why would protons not be the first choice? For many, that answer has nothing to do with cancer and more to do with insurance coverage.

Medicare and Medicaid cover proton therapy, and many commercial insurers cover proton therapy for various diagnosis, but coverage continues to be a battle our billing department fights for our patients daily. More multi-institutional randomized trials could help insurance coverage for proton therapy become universal.

Next Steps in Prostate Cancer Research
Ackerman Cancer Center is partnering with the University of Florida as well as several other institutions across the United States to participate in the ComPPare Study (A Prospective Comparative Study of Outcomes with Proton and Photon Radiation in Prostate Cancer). This study will compare the effectiveness of two different proton therapy treatment plans as well as traditional photon therapy. Ackerman Cancer Center is offering prostate cancer patients the opportunity to participate in the proton therapy portion of the study. The patients who elect to participate will be randomly selected to receive a shorter course of 20 proton therapy treatments with higher doses, or a more traditional length of 33 proton radiation treatments.

We are proud to offer our prostate cancer patients the opportunity to contribute to such a valuable clinical study. In the first three weeks of April 2020, Ackerman Cancer Center had top enrollment out of 39 participating sites throughout the country. We share this achievement with Loma Linda, the first proton therapy center in the nation.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the findings of this long-term trial. If you have any questions about trial participation, click here.