A systematic review of the cost and cost-effectiveness studies of proton radiotherapy

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Economic analyses of new technologies, such as proton-beam radiotherapy (PBT), are a public health priority. To date, no systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of PBT has been performed.


Systematic searches of PubMed, EMBASE, abstracts from American Society for Radiation Oncology and American Society of Clinical Oncology meetings, and the Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Registry were conducted (2000-2015) along with abstracts from the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group of North America for both years of existence (2014-2015). Eighteen original investigations were analyzed.


The cost-effectiveness for prostate cancer—the single most common diagnosis currently treated with PBT—was suboptimal. PBT was the most cost-effective option for several pediatric brain tumors. PBT costs for breast cancer were increased but were favorable for appropriately selected patients with left-sided cancers at high risk of cardiac toxicity and compared with brachytherapy for accelerated partial breast irradiation. For non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the greatest cost-effectiveness benefits using PBT were observed for locoregionally advanced—but not early stage—tumors. PBT offered superior cost-effectiveness in selected head/neck cancer patients at higher risk of acute mucosal toxicities. Similar cost-effectiveness was observed for PBT, enucleation, and plaque brachytherapy in patients with uveal melanoma.


With greatly limited amounts of data, PBT offers promising cost-effectiveness for pediatric brain tumors, well-selected breast cancers, locoregionally advanced NSCLC, and high-risk head/neck cancers. Heretofore, it has not been demonstrated that PBT is cost-effective for prostate cancer or early stage NSCLC. Careful patient selection is absolutely critical to assess cost-effectiveness. Together with increasing PBT availability, clinical trial evidence, and ongoing major technological improvements, cost-effectiveness data and conclusions from this analysis could change rapidly.

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