Pro-proton therapy laws hit Tennessee Assembly

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Three bills aimed at helping patients get better insurance coverage for proton therapy are making the rounds of committees in Nashville this week, and Provision is urging patients and their friends and families to get involved.

For too many, trying to obtain the best treatment has brought them to blows with their insurance companies.

That was the case for Alexa Gash, who at 29 was diagnosed with throat cancer. Her father had recently suffered from the same diagnosis, and on the advice of the family’s physician, the couple began researching proton therapy. Because of Alexa’s age, they wanted to find a treatment that would be most effective but also spare her from unwanted long-term side effects. With conventional radiation, she risked permanent damage to her salivary glands, taste buds and teeth as well as the potential need for a feeding tube during and post-treatment due to a painful condition called mucositis caused by the excess radiation dose delivered outside of the tumor.

But, although Gash was determined a good candidate for proton therapy, her insurance company, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, disagreed and denied her request for coverage. The company designated her treatment “experimental” and denied appeals to reconsider her case based on the potential ramifications of conventional radiation therapy.

Even though Medicare has covered proton therapy for more than 20 years and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines support proton therapy in the treatment of head and neck cancer, BlueCross simply said “No.”

In recognition of the gap in coverage and the beneficial impact that proton therapy can have for cancer patients, several legislators have introduced several bills in the Tennessee General Assembly that would require insurance companies to cover proton therapy under specified conditions at no additional cost to the insurance companies. They include:

House Bill 0883 (Rep. John Holsclaw) & Senate Bill 0210 (Sen. Dr. Mark Green): Requires the state group health insurance program to cover hypofractionated proton therapy for treating cancer under certain conditions.

House Bill 0523 (Rep. Bob Ramsey) & Senate Bill 0367 (Sen. Doug Overbey): Requires health insurance coverage to cover hypofractionated proton therapy in the same manner as it covers intensity modulated radiation therapy under certain conditions.

House Bill 0899 (Rep. Mark Pody) & Senate Bill 0758 (Sen. Mae Beavers): Prohibits certain health benefit plans that provide coverage for cancer therapy from holding proton radiation therapy to a higher standard of clinical evidence for medical policy benefit coverage decisions than the health plan requires for coverage of any other radiation therapy treatment.

Currently, the insurance company lobby is fighting the legislation in spite of this increased support for proton therapy in both research and legislative circles, as well as the growing development of proton therapy centers around the world. Instead, they wear out their own insureds with an endless appeal process forcing frustrated patients, their families and healthcare providers to seek redress in the courts or the legislature.

Over the coming days and weeks, the bills will be heard in the Joint Pensions and Insurance Committee chaired by Chattanooga’s Sen. Bo Watson, the Senate Finance and Labor Committee chaired by Franklin’s Sen. Jack Johnson and the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Kelly Keisling from Pickett County, Tennessee. Sen. Johnson has previously spoken out in favor of proton therapy in publicly supporting the development of Tennessee’s third proton center in his district.

Find out more about how to contact your legislator and help promote these proton therapy bills.

 

 

Provision experts featured at proton therapy conference

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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. (more…)

Remembering the world’s cancer victims and survivors

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This is an edited version of a message Provision Center for Proton Therapy President Tom Welch sent to our patient Ambassadors, those who have come to Provision for treatment and help to spread the word about proton therapy, in recognition of World Cancer Day.

Today is World Cancer Day. People across the world will be remembering loved ones, supporting friends and family who have been diagnosed with cancer, and celebrating those who are now cancer free. At Provision Proton Therapy Center, we recognize the significance of this day and wanted to share in the celebration. (more…)

Provision looks back on 2016

Look back at 2016, ahead to the future

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The year 2016 has been a year of significant progress for Provision, and one that will enable us to aggressively pursue our “mission of developing innovative healthcare solutions focused on improving patient care and clinical outcomes and developing support for research, education and charitable causes.” This year has also been a year which tested our commitment, courage and resolve—and we passed the test.

Here is a summary of some of our key developments… (more…)

Big news for Provision—and cancer patients!

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Just four years after launching its research and development process, Provision Healthcare’s ProNova Solutions division has received FDA 510(k) clearance for its SC360 proton therapy system. This is the first and only compact 360 degree pencil beam scanning proton therapy system capable of treating patients at all angles without moving the patient, enabling the most efficient clinical workflows, improved accuracy of treatment, and patient comfort.

The first ProNova system is expected to be used for patient treatment at the Provision CARES Proton Therapy Center in Knoxville, Tennessee next year. (more…)

Red Journal shines beam on protons: Part 1

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The prestigious International Journal of Radiation Oncology-Biology-Physics, or Red Journal, has devoted an entire issue to the subject of particle therapy—bringing protons into the limelight of medical practice. It is the official journal of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

Much of the nearly 600-page issue, nearly double the normal size, includes 75 articles ranging from clinical outcomes to commentary on a modality increasingly gaining recognition as a preferred option for treatment of tumors. (more…)

French doctor high on Provision, ProNova

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Georges Noël’s interest in proton therapy hearkens back to the time when he met Provision Chief Medical Physicist Niek Schreuder in 1997 at a conference in Paris.

Georges, a radiation oncologist and widely published author, wrote a paper in 2005 declaring, “proton is the future.”

“That is not a new idea for me,” said Noël, director of the radiobiological lab at Centre Paul Strauss, a cancer treatment and research facility, in Strasbourg, France. Last year, he took a sabbatical from his position, to research proton therapy with plans to set up a center there.

He came to the U.S. to research protons, starting with a six month stint in Boston. He then decided to expand his experiences to other centers, taking jaunts to Jacksonville, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Shreveport and San Diego. He spent the last two months of his year-long tour observing and writing his report at Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

He already was familiar with Provision. In addition to his long-time relationship with Schreuder, journal articles by Medical Director Dr. Marcio Fagundes were regular reference points. He also came to learn about ProNova Solutions and the new proton therapy machines being developed here.

“I came to compare machines from different companies and show in my report what is the best one,” he says.

After his time here, Noël says he is absolutely sold on the ProNova product.

“It’s a device to treat patients and to treat patients better,” he said. “I think ProNova is at least five years ahead of the competition. I think this company is the future of protons.”

Noël said he appreciated the close collaboration among clinicians and ProNova development staff as well as the attention paid to the comfort of both the patients and the technicians in the proton therapy equipment’s design.

And, at Provision and ProNova, everyone has the same goal, he said.

“To think that what the physician wants, the physicist wants, what the technician wants is for proton therapy to work better,” he said.

That mindset makes ProNova machines attractive for an institution that is focused on innovation as well as treatment. Noël said he believes the equipment will be most compatible with whatever research track he might want to take, whether testing better treatments, developing databases or coming up with a dose calculation system. ProNova’s entrepreneurial approach to making a new and better machine makes it ideal for making advancements in the field of proton therapy.

“To create a company from nothing,” he said, “that’s always marvelous to me.”

 

 

 

Proton therapy on the cusp of major expansion

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Proton therapy is in growth mode worldwide because of the rise in cancer and protons’ effectiveness in treating it.

Today there are 15 proton therapy centers in the U.S. and 57 centers worldwide with 141 total treatment rooms. By 2018, based on current plans, there will be 119 proton therapy centers around the world.

By 2019, the proton therapy market is expected to reach the $1 billion mark.

In 2012, approximately 14 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed, and there were 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. That number is expected to increase by 70 percent in the next 20 years, according to the World Health Organization.

Radiation therapy is effective in destroying most cancers but can result in serious side effects and long-term health issues due to the healthy tissue it also affects. Unlike conventional radiation, proton therapy provides a carefully timed and controlled dose of radiation directly to the tumor. This significantly reduces the levels of radiation exposure to surrounding tissue, sparing key organs and resulting in many fewer side effects—both during treatment and long-term—and less risk of secondary cancer due to radiation damage.

Today, proton therapy is available to just 1 percent of the population with about 14,500 patients treated in 2014, according to the “Proton Therapy World Market Report,” produced by MEDraysintell, a market research firm.

By 2030, the world market for proton therapy is expected to be between $3.5 billion and $6.6 billion and an anticipated 300,000-600,000 patients will receive treatment, the report said.

As a relatively new treatment modality, proton therapy’s growth has progressed slowly since the first U.S. center was opened in 1990. The equipment needed to generate and deliver protons for treatment has, historically, been expensive and cumbersome to transport and install. Although Medicare allows proton therapy for many cancer indications, many private insurers do not. And recent decades have been spent gathering data to support protons’ efficacy in treating most types of cancers.

A new generation of smaller, lighter proton therapy equipment—such as a system now in development at ProNova Solutions, Provision Healthcare’s sister company—along with improved efficiency and the ability to deliver therapy in less individual treatments will reduce the cost of proton therapy and make it more available to patients.

Additionally, mounting evidence of proton therapy’s effectiveness in curing most types of cancer and improving quality of life for cancer patients has resulted in helping the technology finally come into its own, according to MEDraysintell.

For example, one report from the nation’s oldest proton therapy center has shown that less than 1 percent of men treated with proton therapy for prostate cancer suffered from major rectal and urinary side effects.

“The absence of such risks associated with other radiation treatments or surgery is a major driving factor driving the demand for proton therapy among patients,” state another marketplace report focused on proton therapy, recently released by Kuick Research.

More proton therapy centers, in turn, will result in more clinical research, better clinician understanding and greater patient awareness of its benefits—which will only help encourage further growth.