Proton Therapy Advocates Underscore Need for Fair and Timely Access to Treatment for Cancer Patients During Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

Data show proton therapy associated with fewer post-operative complications and shorter hospital stays for patients living with esophageal cancer

By Alliance for Proton Therapy Access | April 18, 2018

Washington – In recognition of Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month in April, the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access is calling for policies that hold insurers accountable for providing fair, timely, and transparent access to cancer treatment. For many cancer patients, including individuals diagnosed with esophageal cancer, insurers are routinely denying payment for doctor-recommended proton therapy.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year. In many cases patients aren’t diagnosed until their cancer has reached an advanced stage, making treatment especially difficult.

Fortunately, recent research has shown that proton therapy can be an effective treatment option for patients living with esophageal cancer, associated with fewer post-operative complications and shorter hospital stays.[i]A 2013 study of nearly 450 patients with esophageal cancer found that those who received proton therapy had fewer gastrointestinal and pulmonary toxicities than patients who received photon therapy.[ii]

“Proton therapy has proven to be a highly effective treatment for patients living with esophageal cancer,” said Daniel E. Smith, President of the Alliance. “Yet far too many patients are suffering undue health risks, anxiety, and financial hardship as they battle a broken insurance review and appeal process that makes it difficult – and sometimes even impossible – to receive the treatments their doctors prescribe. Patients deserve fair, timely, and transparent treatment decisions from their insurers, which is why the Alliance is working diligently to ensure insurers are held accountable.”

Proton therapy is an FDA-cleared treatment that allows physicians to precisely direct proton energy to cancerous cells, minimizing excess radiation exposure to healthy tissue. Because there are potentially fewer side effects, proton therapy may be associated with improved quality of life for many patients while undergoing treatment, allowing them to minimize loss of daily activity.

[i]Lin SH, Merrell K W, Shen J, et al. “Multi-institutional analysis of radiation modality use and postoperative outcomes of neoadjuvant chemoradiation of esophageal cancer.” Radiother Oncol 2017:123:376-381.

[ii]Wang J, et al. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2013;86(5):885-91