Short Takes On News & Events

D.C. Approves Two New Proton Therapy Centers

By Jenny Gold

May 31st, 2013, 3:02 PM

After months of heated debate, two of Washington’s biggest hospital systems won approval Friday to build proton treatment facilities that will cost a total of $153 million despite questions about whether the treatment is any more effective than less expensive options.

Johns Hopkins Medicine will be allowed to build a two-room proton center at Sibley Memorial Hospital, and MedStar Health’s Georgetown University Hospital will be allowed to move forward with a one-room facility. Hopkins had requested permission to build a four-room center.

The controversial decision was made by Amha Selassie, the director of the city’s Department of Health’s State Health Planning and Development Agency.

The two centers, about three miles apart, will compete for patients in the D.C. area, particularly for those with private insurance. They will also be competing with a five-room facility currently under construction in downtown Baltimore.

Proton therapy is a controversial and high-tech radiation treatment for cancer. It costs nearly twice as much as standard photon radiation and yet has not been shown to provide superior care for the vast majority of patients.

While the treatment has shown promise for treating brain and spinal tumors in children, the Hopkins facility is explicitly banned from treating pediatric cancers. That’s because Sibley Memorial Hospital does not have a pediatric unit, nor does it have a “certificate of need” from the city to build one.

Hopkins, MedStar and the Maryland Proton Treatment Center will all have to turn to treating adult cancers — largely prostate cancer, for which proton therapy has not been shown to improve outcomes or to reduce side effects — to stay profitable.

4 Responses to “D.C. Approves Two New Proton Therapy Centers”

  1. Ren says:

    My husband suffered from cancer, it’s depressing because he’s gone now. I wish we could have afford for him to go to this kind of therapy. Well i guess he is living in heaven now.

  2. randy says:

    If you have an adult cancer such as prostate cancer and you are one of the millions of Americans without health insurance, you will not have a chance at getting this treatment. This treatment is for those who can afford to pay for insurance. As for the 50 million or more uninsured in America and for the 25 million more who are underinsured in America? Republicans in Congress say you should try to find cheap palliative care.

  3. mishael says:

    GOOD medical attention is a need to all citizen.people as will should strive to maintain their health by applying what is discussed at

  4. randy says:

    America’s healthcare system is the greatest in the world with one minor caveat. You need to be wealthy to participate. Ask any Republican! Ask the 50 million plus Americans that can’t afford health insurance or the 25 million more Americans that are underinsured and have no clue what their health insurance covers. They will tell you that they don’t have a prayer of ever seeing a doctor on a regular basis. Not a prayer!