Analysis of the cost-effectiveness of proton beam therapy for unresectable pancreatic cancer in Japan

Cancer Med. 2023 Oct;12(20):20450-20458. doi: 10.1002/cam4.6611. Epub 2023 Oct 5.


Background: Proton beam therapy (PBT) has recently been included in Japan's social health insurance benefits package. This study aimed to determine the cost-effectiveness of PBT for unresectable, locally advanced pancreatic cancer (LAPC) as a replacement for conventional photon radiotherapy (RT).

Methods: We estimated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of PBT as a replacement for three-dimensional conformal RT (3DCRT), a conventional photon RT, using clinical evidence in the literature and expense complemented by expert opinions. We used a decision tree and an economic and Markov model to illustrate the disease courses followed by LAPC patients. Effectiveness was estimated as quality-adjusted life years (QALY) using utility weights for the health state. Social insurance fees were calculated as the costs. The stability of the ICER against the assumptions made was appraised using sensitivity analyses.

Results: The effectiveness of PBT and 3DCRT was 1.67610615 and 0.97181271 QALY, respectively. The ICER was estimated to be ¥5,376,915 (US$46,756) per QALY. According to the suggested threshold for anti-cancer therapy from the Japanese authority of ¥7,500,000 (US$65,217) per QALY gain, such a replacement would be considered cost-effective. The one-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses demonstrated stability of the base-case ICER.

Conclusion: PBT, as a replacement for conventional photon radiotherapy, is cost-effective and justifiable as an efficient use of finite healthcare resources. Making it a standard treatment option and available to every patient in Japan is socially acceptable from the perspective of health economics.

Keywords: chemoradiotherapy; cost-effectiveness; incremental cost-effectiveness ratio; locally advanced pancreatic cancer; particle radiotherapy; proton beam therapy; quality-adjusted life year; radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Proton Therapy*