Proton-beam therapy is massively expensive—$100+ million facilities, each treatment twice as much as radiation—and not proven to be any safer or more effective than other cancer treatments. So why are U.S. hospitals racing to build new proton-beam facilities?
Financial incentives, and the wrong ones, according to a skeptical piece at Bloomberg. To house the 200-ton cyclotron that accelerates protons to 93,000 miles per second, the facilities have to be as big as football fields, with 16-feet-thick concrete walls. Hospitals can afford to build them because proton-beam therapy is “extremely favorably reimbursed” by Medicare and many private insurance companies, says Sean Tunis, CEO of the Center for Medical Technology Policy. To foot the construction bill, hospitals will have to push the treatment aggressively to cancer patients.