by Thomas Dworetzky
, Contributing Reporter | December 29, 2015
Arizona's first proton therapy facility — the new $182 million center set to open on the famed Mayo Clinic campus in Phoenix — is inching ever closer to becoming operational.
While proton therapy is typically more expensive than more standard treatments, the Mayo Clinic has a new business model, relying on private donations rather than loans, that officials say will lower treatment costs to be in line with other modalities for cancer care.
“We have taken all the risk on this,” Dr. Sameer Keole, a radiation oncologist and center director, told The Arizona Daily Star
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“We have voluntarily said, ‘We are going to completely take the cost argument off the table. It is going to be the same cost for the insurance company and for the patient in terms of his or her co-pay whether they get X-ray therapy or whether they get proton therapy. So anybody who says we are doing it for the money, that completely takes the wind out of the sails.”
The facility's officials estimate that 1,200 patients will eventually be treated annually there, according to The Star.
Beyond cost consideration, the new center will make it more convenient to receive this cutting edge treatment for patients in Arizona. At present, the closest proton therapy centers are in Texas and California.
"While it is important for patients to explore all available treatment options with their physician, to determine what approach is best for their unique condition, we are fortunate that patients no longer have to travel out of state to access this remarkable technology, which provides targeted treatment to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue,” Tucson Medical Center's chief medical officer, Dr. Rick Anderson, told the paper.
Proton beam therapy has hit headwinds as it is more expensive than conventional therapy for many cancers and disorders, and some insurers, such as UnitedHealth Group and Aetna, have stopped covering it for prostate cancer, at one time a major source of patients for the therapy, according to the Wall Street Journal
Now that cost has been lowered with the new Mayo model, however, getting the most appropriate care can again be the focus of treatment choice. “We recognize that there are a lot of people providing great care,” Keole said. “We are not saying every patient needs to be treated with protons. But there are a certain percentage of patients where protons would make a lot of sense.”