Three years after Provision opened the doors of its proton therapy center, awareness and demand for the treatment are growing—as is evidence of its effectiveness in treating various cancers, including prostate cancer and breast cancer.
At the National Association for Proton Therapy conference last week, Provision was well represented as employees spoke about ways technology, marketing and research are continuing to help boost proton therapy’s presence and use in providing quality care.
“It took 23 years to develop the first dozen proton therapy centers in the United States,” said Scott Warwick, vice president of strategic initiatives and program development at Provision Healthcare and immediate past chair of the National Association for Proton Therapy, who gave opening remarks at the annual conference, held in Orlando. “In the past three years that number has doubled.”
In recent years, the technology has matured and, with development of pencil beam scanning, offers a true alternative to conventional radiation—with equally good outcomes, fewer side effects and reduced risk of developing secondary cancer and other long-term health impacts from radiation’s injury to healthy tissues and organs near the tumor site.
Niek Schreuder, Provision chief medical physicist, spoke about the history of proton therapy’s development as well as the future of the technology—including research and development a new generation of proton therapy machines at ProNova Solutions, a division of Provision Healthcare.
Provision’s director of patient care development, Elizabeth Vanzo, participated in a panel discussion on “Patient Centered Programs.” The panel shared information about non-medical programs and services at proton centers that provide an optimal patient experience before, during and after treatment. These initiatives are proven to increase patient satisfaction and ultimately led to continuous patient engagement.
The NAPT conference included a day on insurance coverage and reimbursement and highlighted promising research.
Of particular interest, Warwick said, was a presentation by Michael Story, division chief and professor of radiation oncology research at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who discussed, from a basic research perspective, the biological impact of proton therapy and conventional radiation on tumor cells.
In lab studies, conventional radiation actually caused tumor cells to migrate to different parts of the body, potentially raising the risk for metastasis. Protons, on the other hand, “are effective at suppressing tumor cell migration and invasion,” he said. Proton exposure has also been shown to alter gene expression equating into reduced tumor invasion and growth and would work well with angiogenesis inhibiting drugs for tumors that develop their own blood supply.
Of course, such studies need to be expanded and verified in clinical trials, Warwick said, but the results offer exciting new evidence that proton therapy is not only effective in killing tumor cells but can potentially help prevent cancer spread in the future.