Cancer Specialty Treatment: New Energy for Particle Therapy

TOSebastian Adeberg is faced with a delicate situation when he takes up a new job at the particle therapy center in Marburg. On the one hand, optimism reigns in the staff of this specialized institution for the treatment of tumors. Because the new contract for the future, concluded at the end of February for the University Hospital Giessen and Marburg, also serves their work. On the other hand, Adeberg and she, along with the administrative floor of Germany’s third largest hospital, face two obstacles. A new service contract is required with medical device manufacturer Siemens Healthineers, which built the heart of the system, a 90 by 50 meter particle accelerator. Even more important at the moment is an agreement with health insurance companies for further funding. From next week, both sides will talk about it.

This talk is about the economic pressure that health insurance companies are under. This year they expect a minus of about 17 billion euros with an upward trend. According to Günther Weiss, Chairman of the Board of the University Hospital, the current contracts for the particle therapy center are valid until June 30th. Management is aware of the fears of payers. However, Weiss also says, “We assume we can convince health insurance companies to continue funding.”

Increased efficiency due to heavy ions

From the point of view of a university hospital, there are a number of reasons for this. The Particle Therapy Center is one of two such institutions in Germany, the other being in Heidelberg. From there, the specialist in oncology and radiation medicine Adeberg moved to Lahn. Both places exchange information. After a very difficult system start in 2015, the Heidelberg team was in charge of the system for some time. It is now a subsidiary of Rhön-Klinikum AG, which in turn has owned 95 percent of the university hospital, abbreviated as UKGM, since 2006. Particle Therapy was launched by the government under the leadership of Roland Koch (CDU) as a “flagship project”.

The system owes its special brilliance to its technology in two ways. It can fight tumors with both hydrogen ions and heavy ions. In the second version, the particle accelerator launches carbon ions. This type of radiation therapy is characterized by a significantly higher biological efficiency compared to the other option. This, in turn, is due to a much denser release of energy into the penetrating tissue, according to Marburg.

Rays hit the tumor point by point from all sides

Sylvia Heinis, commercial director at UKGM Marburg and physician, admires the accuracy of heavy ion injection. Accordingly, the rays on the way to the target almost do not damage the surrounding tissues and then fan out into the tumor. The ulcer is pre-scanned in 3D. As a comparison, Weiss chooses the image of a tangerine, which, point by point, is hit by rays from all sides, and not just from one side.

With this type of therapy, the facility is also able to treat patients who are otherwise largely unhelped, including children. Diseases include malignant tumors of the spine, base of the skull and neck, and pancreatic cancer. Among others, the former prime minister of Hesse, Volker Bouffier (CDU), benefited from particle therapy in Marburg. According to the representative of the clinic, 350 cancer patients were treated in four therapeutic rooms during the year.

Scarcity accepted

Particle therapy is not a profit center. In fact, from the very beginning, it was the other way around: “We don’t make money with the system,” Weiss emphasizes. According to him, the minus received during the year amounts to small millions. The clinic compensates for this lack of knowledge about the benefits of particle therapy. Their cost is also known to the state government: the future contract for the university hospital, which runs until 2033, allows 750,000 euros to be spent annually on the system.

Requires new software and devices

Money is also needed for Lan. While Adeberg said, “The Particle Therapy Center is in a state where it’s working well.” But he doesn’t hide the need to invest in the imaging hardware and software needed to get the job done. While the computer needs two to three days for a treatment plan. With new software, this should be much faster in the future. As Adeberg continues, after the desired investment, the facility will be at a level to provide the best medicines over the next few years. By the way, updating your equipment regularly is completely normal.

However, box offices would like better data. However, with two centers in Germany, this is difficult to guarantee: “We all need endurance,” says 38-year-old Adeberg. For him, there is no doubt that particle therapy has a future. It will be expanded in Asia. Australia is planning four such plants. He is a member of the committee that does this and plans to work with his Australian counterparts. In view of this, Weiss is “energetically optimistic” before negotiations with the box office.

Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine

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