Debate continues over proton therapy's effectiveness

The opening of Michigan's first proton therapy center has been delayed pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The $70 million Proton Therapy Center--part of McLaren-Flint's Cancer Institute--originally was supposed to open in the winter of 2012. "We are still awaiting our final phase of FDA approval and are involved in continued testing and calibration of the equipment to insure optimum patient safety and treatment," Laurie Prochazka, a McLaren spokeswoman, said in an article on MLive.com. "At this time, there is no set date to begin treating the first patient."

According to the National Association for Proton Therapy, there currently are 14 proton therapy centers in operation in the U.S., with another seven under construction.

The most recent center to begin operations--the Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego--opened last month.  According to an article from KUSI News, the $220 million center is expected to treat 2,400 patients a years, including those from the University of California San Diego Health System and Rady Children's Hospital.

Ironically, Scripps opens it doors just as a number of California insurers, such as Blue Shield of California, have decided not to pay for the treatment. Blue Shield, last summer, said the decision was based on a lack of scientific evidence that this method of treating prostate and other cancers is better than traditional methods.

Proton therapy has become a controversial alternative to traditional radiotherapy for cancer patients, with one of the major issues being the cost of the treatment and the treatment centers that are being constructed to provide that treatment.

One health economist even went as far as to call proton therapy centers "the death star of American medical technology."

To learn more:
- see the MLive.com article
- read the article about the opening of the Scripps Proton Therapy Center

Related Articles:
Blue Shield won't cover controversial, pricey cancer treatment
Hospitals rushing to build proton-beam treatment centers
Costly cancer treatment comes under fire
Docs not sold on proton therapy

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