|Everyone seems to agree that proton beam therapy--a type of radiation that can attack cancerous tumors while generally sparing the surrounding tissue--is an exciting technology with a lot of potential. But some insurers and disease experts say that, until there’s better evidence that proton therapy is more effective at treating various cancers than traditional types of less expensive radiation, coverage shouldn’t be routine.|
That approach doesn’t sit well with proponents, some of whom say that insurance coverage is critical for necessary research of the controversial therapy’s uses.
Meanwhile, the number of proton therapy centers -- huge structures that can cost more than $200 million -- continues to increase. Fourteen are in operation in the United States and a dozen more under development, according to Leonard Arzt, executive director of the National Association for Proton Therapy.
Critics assert that the rush to build the centers is putting a very large cart before the horse.
In general, “the evidence has failed to demonstrate that there is a significant improvement in outcomes with proton beams,” says J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. “It’s fair to question whether the number of facilities that are being constructed really reflect the proven value of proton beam therapy.”
A 2012 study published in the...