Baton Rouge General Pulls Out of Proposed Proton Cancer Treatment Center
Baton Rouge General has pulled out as a partner in an $85 million Proton Radiation Cancer Treatment Centre that will be built in the Baton Rouge Health District.
The hospital said it decided not to participate in the planning of the proton beam therapy centre after consulting with its oncology group leadership.
Hospital leaders reviewed medical literature, data from other proton centres and the “clinical applicability” of proton therapy for Baton Rouge General patients, Tenreiro says. Ultimately, he decided the treatment—which uses targeted radiation to treat cancer—has not been proven to work better than traditional treatment in most cases.
“While there is some promise in treating a limited number of childhood cancers with protons, controlled clinical trials have not demonstrated superior outcomes for the vast majority of cancers in adults” when compared to radiation therapy, said Edgardo Tenreiro, president and CEO of Baton Rouge General, in a statement.
Baton Rouge General’s decision won’t affect plans for the Louisiana ProtonCare Center, said Steve Hicks chairman and CEO of Provident Resources Group, the parent company of Provident ProtonCare, which will finance, own and operate the treatment center.
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and Woman’s Hospital remain as clinical partners in the facility, and the move won’t stop Baton Rouge General oncologists from referring patients for treatment.
The new cancer centre is planned for the health district near the junction of Interstates 10 and 12, though organizers are still negotiating its exact location. Construction is set to begin by late 2018 and developers are hoping to complete it by the end of 2019.
“We respect their decision but we disagree with the basis for it—the reason,” says Provident CEO Steve Hicks. “We’ll be looking to leadership of Mary Bird Perkins and Our Lady of the Lake, and we certainly will welcome any of the radiation oncologists at Baton Rouge General.”
Hicks argues proton therapy is a respected and vital form of treatment for children. The treatment works by targeting high doses of radiation at tumours to save healthy surrounding tissues. Children are more vulnerable to traditional radiation because of its adverse effect on the rest of the body.
Proton therapy centers are generally rare in the U.S.; Baton Rouge will be one of 25 cities with one. Hicks pointed to Provident’s proton center in Atlanta—under construction and is a partnership with Emory University—as an example of the treatment’s reputation in the medical community.
“We’re still serving the same base of cancer patients,” said Hicks, noting that there are 5,000 to 6,000 people diagnosed with cancer every year in South Louisiana.
The center in Georgia will provide five treatment rooms and will serve about three times as many people as the Baton Rouge center, Hicks estimates. Plans for the Baton Rouge development include two treatment rooms.
The other hospitals associated with the project, as well as Ochsner Health System, which is not participating, declined to comment.
“It was never anticipated that all partners would participate in all projects because business decisions can be very complex,” says Suzy Sonnier, director of the Baton Rouge Health District. “We do believe the tech will be innovative and will improve health outcomes.”
Don Pierson, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, which trumpeted the proton treatment center, said he’s still optimistic about the facility. “All of the fundamentals that make this project make sense are still in place,” he said.
Baton Rouge-based Provident, a non-profit development and management company, is involved in three proton treatments centres, including one in Atlanta being done in conjunction with Emory University and one in Northern California.
Louisiana Economic Development is offering Provident a “competitive” incentive package, according to a news release announcing the project in May. Provident will get at least $1 million from a performance-based grant paid over five years starting in 2021, as well as access to the state’s Quality Jobs Program.
Because the incentives are performance-based, Pierson said, public money isn’t at risk if the proton treatment center stumbles.
The centre is the second one in the area to be announced in recent months.
Construction on the $100 million Louisiana Proton Therapy Center is slated to begin this year at the University Medical Center campus in New Orleans by Tennessee-based Provision Healthcare, and will last about two years.
The two proposed south Louisiana centers will join two dozen such facilities in operation in the U.S., the next closest ones being in Shreveport and Houston. Another dozen are either under construction or in development, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy’s website.