Proton beam therapy claims refuted by urologists on Twitter

列印On this website, we’ve tracked how proton beam therapy for cancer radiation treatment has been promoted, including in marketing efforts by medical centers that have made an expensive investment in the technology.

Something posted on the website of the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute sparked a mini-furor this week with a couple of urologists who are active on social media.

Here’s what that website posted:

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 10.19.43 AM

And here’s how two urologists reacted on Twitter:


Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.15.30 PM

You may not understand all the jargon in the urologists’ concerns about:

  • unfair comparisons,
  • cancer followup,
  • stage of cancer treated,
  • risk stratification,
  • rates of fecal incontinence attributed to surgery by the proton-promoting center,
  • re-hospitalization rate attributed to surgery by the proton-promoting center

In a nutshell, they’re saying that cancer outcomes are greatly affected by how advanced the cancer is when it’s treated and what kind of follow-up treatment is given to patients after the procedure. It’s misleading and possibly deceptive to display these comparisons without that crucial context. Further, the surgery stats cited don’t match what these two urologists have seen in their practice. 

Clearly, these urologists are very skeptical of these figures.   

But even if all that jargon went over your head, you should be able to understand that the radiation versus surgery argument is alive and well.  And it’s especially lively when claims are made from one center’s experience with proton beam therapy. Caveat emptor.

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Comments (1)

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Nancy P. Mendenhall, MD, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Medical Director

June 12, 2015 at 4:12 pm

We appreciate constructive discourse about the quality of health information available to people seeking medical treatment. It is fair to question the source and validity of data presented. In the case of the chart in question, our sources were prospective studies conducted at our institution and peer-reviewed in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics, as well as information found on the National Cancer Institute website section for health professionals. These sources are footnoted on the chart. To assure meaningful comparisons in patient outcomes, we are reviewing this chart and other materials to make sure they meet our rigorous academic standards for health information.