Leonard Arzt, executive director of the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT), has been promoting the therapeutic benefits of proton therapy for cancer treatment in the U.S. and abroad ever since the foundation of the center in 1990.
Arzt has seen proton therapy evolve along the years. The ever first patients were men with prostate cancer who self-referred themselves after they discovered the advantages of proton beam radiation therapy over conventional X-ray radiation. Today, proton therapy is still a small radiation community and represents only 1% of all radiation oncology procedures, but it is surely growing. There are currently 10 operating centers around the country and another 10 or more under construction.
According to Arzt, the benefits of proton therapy are totally worth the costs it causes, as protons minimize harmful side effects and morbidity, allowing the patients to live a healthy lifestyle while being treated and increasing their chances of a better quality of life in the long run. Moreover, cheaper devices with smaller footprints are being developed, giving more hospitals access to proton therapy and answering their patients’ need to limit their travel time and stay closer to home. For the first 10 to 12 years, cancer patients had to travel to California if they wanted proton therapy, and had to stay for as long as eight to nine weeks.
Accessibiliy and availability of proton therapy for patients are thus as important as technological development, Arzt concludes.