That’s the question asked by Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
I keep bringing up proton beam therapy in my talks to journalists for the same reasons Levy raises in his blog post, “Protons killing cancer and our budget”:
“…we see the medical arms race at work again.
These are huge and very expensive machines, costing upwards of $150 million dollars. At that price, there should only be a very few in the entire country. Yet, as noted in a recent paper by Anthony Zietman, Michael Goitein, and Joel E. Tepper in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, “In the United States alone, seven centers are in operation and at least 10 more are likely to come into operation in the next decade.” J Clin Oncol 28:4275-4279
Here’s the map of existing facilities and others currently under development or construction, as posted on the web site of the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT). What will this look like in a few years?
There is no way this makes sense. As noted, the main value of these machines is in treating certain distinct forms of cancer. The problem occurs when one is purchased as a prestige item. Since there is not enough demand for its use for the appropriate cases, it starts to be used for other types of cancer that would ordinarily be treated with traditional forms of radiotherapy.”