Is Proton Therapy Experimental?

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Proton therapy is NOT experimental. It has been used to treat patients since the mid-1950s and was approved in 1988 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Medicare and Medicaid began covering the procedure in 2000 and continue to cover proton therapy today. Close to 85,000 people have received proton therapy at centers in Europe, Asia, and the United States.  Since 1990, there have been countless studies and trials that have shown proton therapy to be the treatment of choice for many types of cancer.  Far from experimental, proton treatment has been refined and, coupled with leading-edge technology, has become one of the best treatment options for doctors and patients.  There are literally hundreds of peer review journal-published articles proving the benefits of proton therapy including: excellent effectiveness for both adults and children, it can be used on recurrent tumors (even on patients who already have received radiation), reduces risk of spillover radiation into healthy tissue and organs, and improves quality of life before and after treatment.  For a sample list of these studies you can go to our clinical studies page.

Here are some quick facts about the history of proton therapy.

  • Berkeley Radiation Laboratory treated the first patient with protons in 1954.
  • Harvard University treated its first patients in 1961.
  • Loma Linda opened the first hospital based proton treatment center in 1990.
  • 84,000 patients have been treated with proton therapy through the end of 2011.
  • There are 12 operating proton centers in the U.S., 2 more set to open in January 2014, including the Provision Center for Proton Therapy and 15 more under construction or in the planning stage.
  • There are 35 proton centers operational worldwide with dozens more planned.
  • Proton radiotherapy has been the topic of 3,000 papers since 1954.
  • Proton therapy was FDA approved for use in the U.S. in 1988—26 years ago.
  • Medicare and about 180 private insurers consider proton therapy an established technology, and have been reimbursing for proton therapy for more than 20 years.