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6 health systems already on board for proton beam consortium

Statewide approach will bring cutting edge cancer treatment to Mich. in cost-effective, coordinated way

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added 5/27/08

Dr. Howard Sandler
Dr. Howard Sandler consults on a patient receiving radiation therapy. Proton beam therapy is an innovative form of radiation treatment with potential to cause fewer side effects than traditional radiation.

Meet the Expert: Howard Sandler, M.D.

Learn more: Michigan Proton Therapy Consortium

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Ann Arbor - A consortium of Michigan health care systems has created a joint venture to bring an emerging cancer treatment to the state's residents. The treatment, called proton beam therapy, is an innovative form of radiation treatment with potential to cause fewer side effects and less damage to healthy tissue compared to traditional radiation.

Six of the state's largest health systems have agreed to participate in the collaborative, including the state's only two National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers.

"Having access to proton beam therapy is important for the citizens of the state of Michigan, and a collaborative is the best approach to ensuring adequate access and appropriate utilization of the service. This is also the best possible health policy for the state of Michigan. The collaborative will be working diligently over the next few months to develop a viable business plan to ensure that we bring this exciting technology to Michigan in a timely manner," says Robert P. Kelch, M.D. executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan and chief executive officer of the U-M Health System.

The six health systems that have agreed to the collaborative to date are:

The consortium was formed to mitigate the costs of proton beam therapy - starting with the $160 million needed to build a treatment center. At the same time, a consortium will provide greater economic benefit to Michigan than a single hospital provider, since it will spread an economic benefit across a wide array of providers and communities. In addition, a consortium ensures the state will have one proton beam center operating at high efficiency versus multiple centers operating at low volumes, risking financial and operational viability.

Proton beam therapy is a type of radiation that uses particles called protons, whereas traditional radiation therapy uses photons, or X-rays. Protons deliver radiation to a more targeted area than photons can achieve, which means it has the potential to spare more healthy tissue or organs as the radiation more precisely hits the tumor.

Proton beam therapy appears to be most promising for treating certain types of tumors where precision is of the utmost importance, but more research is needed to fully understand the potential of this treatment. The consortium approach will include a research component to help define which patients will benefit from proton technology.

Currently, five facilities across the country offer proton beam therapy, with at least a half dozen additional sites planned or proposed.

"Working together as part of a consortium will ensure that proton beam therapy is available to all in Michigan who need it, regardless of where they live or what hospital their insurance covers. This consortium of non-profit hospitals - the trusted source of medical care for Michigan's citizens - is best poised to develop this promising therapy for the state," says Nancy Schlichting, president and chief executive office of the Henry Ford Health System.

The health systems have already begun working together and are making progress toward a September deadline from the state Certificate of Need Commission to develop a business plan. Specifically:

  • Efforts have begun to develop the criteria for and identify a location for the facility.
  • The organizations are in the final stages of engaging a consultant to develop a comprehensive business plan for the consortium.
  • Representatives from each of the member health systems have begun meeting regularly to ensure plans are finalized in a timely fashion.
  • Physicians from the member hospitals will be meeting soon to discuss clinical protocols and research guidelines.

All providers of radiation therapy services in the state of Michigan have been, or will soon be, invited to be part of this consortium. This will ensure the greatest possible access to the most people in the state that are in need of proton beam therapy.

The consortium approach is supported by a large number of providers, purchasers and employers, as well as by the Economic Alliance of Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association and the Small Business Association of Michigan

For more information about Michigan's proton beam consortium, visit www.protontherapyformichigan.org.

Written by Nicole Fawcett

 

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Please note: The articles listed in the Cancer Center's News Archive are here for historical purposes. The information and links may no longer be up-to-date.