India’s Apollo Cancer Centre inks agreement with IBA to offer proton therapy training for clinicians

A type of radiation therapy, Proton therapy uses high-powered energy to treat cancer and some noncancerous tumors.

India’s Apollo Cancer Centre inks agreement with IBA to offer proton therapy training for clinicians
Apollo Proton Cancer Centre (APCC) and Ion Beam Applications (IBA), Belgium, signed an agreement on Thursday to offer proton therapy training. (FE.com)

Apollo Proton Cancer Centre (APCC) and Ion Beam Applications (IBA), Belgium, signed an agreement on Thursday to offer proton therapy training and education for clinicians in Asia and across the globe. The hospital group claimed that due to this agreement APCC has become Asia’s first and exclusive Proton Beam Training Institute.

According to the hospital group, after acquiring IBA’s Proteus PLUS proton therapy system, the Apollo Hospitals has been successfully treating cancer patients for over three years. Now, with this association, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre will impart knowledge through its advanced training and education program on proton therapy to clinicians, it claimed.

“An acute need for high quality cancer care and the increasing prevalence of cancer cases in India, was the genesis of Apollo Cancer Centres (ACC), about three decades ago. Ever since, ACC has continually introduced the finest and most advanced cancer care into India, with the most recent being, bringing in Proton Therapy into the region. Furthermore, in keeping with its resolute mission to raise the bar in cancer care for all in need, in association with IBA, the Apollo Proton Cancer Centre is becoming the first of its kind training and education program reference centre in Asia,” Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, said while announcing the partnership.

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What is Proton Therapy?

A type of radiation therapy, Proton therapy uses high-powered energy to treat cancer and some noncancerous tumors. Although radiation therapy using X-rays has long been used to treat these conditions, Proton therapy is a newer type of radiation therapy that uses energy from positively charged particles (protons).

During the press conference, Dr. Rakesh Jalali, Medical Director & Head of Radiation Oncology, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre explained that they started the proton cancer centre in India to provide the most advanced cancer treatment available in the world.

“So far, we have treated patients with various types of tumours. Each patient is selected based on a very intense and rigorous process and approved after discussion in a dedicated site-specific tumour board and peer review process. We have judiciously and consciously made the centre at par with any other major international cancer centre in terms of care, generation of quality data and several innovative educational initiatives. Now, with this collaboration, we’re providing access to clinicians, physicists and therapists from across Asia and the world to avail the opportunity for training and education on contemporary Proton Beam Therapy Practice,” Dr. Jalali said.

According to doctors and health experts, Proton therapy has shown promise in treating several kinds of cancer. Several studies have pointed out that proton therapy may cause fewer side effects than traditional radiation.

“Particle beam therapy such as protons have physical attributes to deliver radiation with virtually no exit dose such that if delivered precisely to the tumour area and therefore is one of the most sophisticated forms of radiation therapy currently available in the world. Latest breakthroughs in this technology including pencil beam scanning, highly precise image guidance and tremendous refinements in the machine set up have led to a spurt of adopting this technology throughout the world in hospital settings in the last few years,” Dr. Rakesh Jalali told Financial Express.com.

According to Dr. Jalali, modern proton beam therapy can result in literally dose painting the most complex tumour shapes with ultra-high precision. This novel breakthrough in cancer care is revolutionizing how we utilise radiation beams to treat cancer to achieve durable long-term tumour control in challenging cancer sites and significantly improve their long-term quality of life and survivorship, he said.

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“This not only helps in improving long-term cancer control in challenging cancer sites but reduces the adverse effects of radiotherapy resulting in significant improvements in the quality of cures. This has also led to oncology communities now to expand the proton beam therapy to not only well-established indications of childhood and young adult cancers but to tumours of the brain, skull base and cancers of the head and neck, gastrointestinal tract, deep-seated abdominal and pelvic tumours and those in challenging sites where the conventional form of treatment are generally not efficacious. It can be also used when the tumour has recurred and when re-irradiation is contemplated to reduce the dose delivered to the organs at risk and still achieve a reasonable therapeutic dose to the tumour,” he added.

Dr. Jalali informed Financial Express.com that Proton therapy is non-invasive and painless treatment which is typically carried out on an outpatient basis where a treatment course may span three to six weeks depending on the type and size of the tumour. Modern proton therapy has been shown to be cost-effective in terms of long-term quality of survivorship by several cost-effectiveness models using the famous Markov model, he added.

On how this therapy is different from targetted and immunotherapies, Dr. Jalali told Financial Express.com: “Proton therapy is a form of radiation and it cannot replace targeted or immunotherapy in principle. However, there has been a lot of buzz regarding the synergistic action of combinative therapy and combining the forces of proton therapy and immunotherapy. Initial data has indeed shown that such combination can lead to much more effective cancer treatment.”

What is the cost Proton Therapy in India?

Regarding the cost and affordability, Dr. Jalali told Financial Express.com that Proton therapy is a big investment anywhere in the world.

“The cost of the therapy at the moment in our country is anywhere about Rs. 30 lakh. But it is one-fourth or one-fifth of the cost that people would pay in any other part of the world for example in North America. This is still much more affordable. But we have several programmes for economically challenged societies. We have crowd-funding sources, there is a charity foundation, and there are clinical trials. So we try to address, we try to treat the patient and don’t deprive them just because the family can’t afford it. We all are geared up to make it as affordable as possible. One of the reasons to make other centres is to also bring down the cost. Once, you have more options the cost goes down. We try that every suitable patient gets the benefit of such treatment,” he told Financial Express.com.

He also highlighted that as therapy leads to lesser complications and side effects, the total cost of the treatment also comes down as compared to conventional cancer therapies.

Reportedly, with the launch of Apollo Proton Cancer Centre (APCC) in 2019, India has become the 16th country in the world to offer proton therapy for cancer.

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