Proton therapy groups praise GAO prostate cancer report

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers

August 7, 2013 -- Two groups representing the proton therapy community issued a statement backing a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that highlighted a trend toward increased physician self-referral for prostate cancer treatment.

The report, titled "Higher Use of Costly Prostate Cancer Treatment by Providers Who Self-Refer Warrants Scrutiny," confirms the need for newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients to be certain that their doctors explain all of their treatment options, including proton therapy, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) and the Proton Therapy Consortium.

Based on a study of Medicare-funded treatments, the GAO report found that physicians who self-referred prostate cancer patients in 2009 were 53% more likely to refer for intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and less likely to refer for other treatments, including proton therapy. Financial incentives for self-referring providers, specifically those in limited specialty groups, were likely a major factor driving the percentage of prostate cancer patients referred for IMRT, the report concluded.

NAPT and the Proton Therapy Consortium said that proton therapy for prostate cancer has been clinically proved to benefit patients, while causing fewer changes in quality of life than either IMRT or 3D conformal radiation therapy. In addition, proton therapy treatment has been shown to reduce the risk of a second malignancy when compared with contemporary IMRT, they said.

Proton therapy for prostate cancer is currently offered by 11 U.S. centers that are affiliated with major academic universities and cancer centers.

The GAO report can be found here.


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