Proton therapy offers dominant advantages over photon therapy due to the unique depth-dose characteristics of proton, which can cause a dramatic reduction in normal tissue doses both distal and proximal to the tumor target volume. In turn, this feature may allow dose escalation to the tumor target volume while sparing the tumor-neighboring susceptible organs at risk, which has the potential to reduce treatment toxicity and improve local control rate, quality of life and survival. Some dosimetric studies in various cancers have demonstrated the advantages over photon therapy in dose distributions. Further, it has been observed that proton therapy confers to substantial clinical advantage over photon therapy in head and neck, breast, hepatocellular, and non-small cell lung cancers. As such, proton therapy is regarded as the standard modality of radiotherapy in many pediatric cancers from the technical point of view. However, due to the limited clinical evidence, there have been concerns about the high cost of proton therapy from an economic point of view. Considering the treatment expenses for late radiation-induced toxicities, cost-effective analysis in many studies have shown that proton therapy is the most cost-effective option for brain, head and neck and selected breast cancers. Additional studies are warranted to better unveil the cost-effective values of proton therapy and to develop newer ways for better protection of normal tissues. This review aims at reviewing the recent studies on proton therapy to explore its benefits and cost-effectiveness in cancers. We strongly believe that proton therapy will be a common radiotherapy modality for most types of solid cancers in the future.
Keywords: Cancer; Intensity-modulated; Proton therapy; Radiation therapy; Systematic review.