Survey of clinician opinions on the role of proton beam therapy in Australia and New Zealand

J Med Imaging Radiat Oncol. 2020 Sep 13. doi: 10.1111/1754-9485.13089. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: We surveyed the Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) radiation oncology community to assess their perceptions, understanding and experience of the current role of proton beam therapy (PBT) and the existing referral process to access PBT overseas, ahead of the development of the first PBT centre in Australia.

Methods: The survey was conducted between September and October 2019 using a 17-question instrument, which was distributed by email to all 632 radiation oncology fellows and trainees listed in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists database.

Results: One hundred and one respondents completed the survey, with an overall response rate of 16%. Most respondents were based in Australia (93%), with the majority working in public centres only (59%); 51% were > 10 years post fellowship and 17% were trainees. Most respondents (76%) reported moderate or high levels of confidence in the role of PBT. Only 28% had previously referred a patient for PBT overseas, with the most common referral indication being chordoma. Of those who had not previously referred a patient, 48% were not convinced about the rationale of PBT over current therapies available locally, 33% were not aware of the referral process, and 24% had concerns about the timeliness of a decision for government-funded PBT abroad.

Conclusion: This survey has demonstrated that, although there is reasonable confidence in the role of PBT among ANZ radiation oncologists, there are a number of important aspects of PBT awareness, education and access that need to be developed prior to commencement of PBT in Australia.

Keywords: medical education; particle therapy; proton beam therapy; radiation therapy; survey.