Proton Beam Therapy out of reach for many
02, Mar 2023
Prelims level : Proton Beam Therapy Mains level : GS-III Science & Technology - Awareness in the fields of it, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology, Pharma Sector & Health Science
Why in News?
- There is currently a demand-supply gap of proton beam therapy machines in India, leaving many cancer patients in a difficult situation.
What is Proton Beam Therapy?
- Proton beam therapy is a type of radiation therapy — a treatment that uses high-energy beams to treat tumors.Radiation therapy using X-rays has long been used to treat cancers and noncancerous (benign) tumors.
- It uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer. At high energy, protons can destroy cancer cells.
- It can also be combined with x-ray radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and/or immunotherapy.
- Like x-ray radiation, proton therapy is a type of external-beam radiation therapy.
- How it works?
- Fundamentally, all tissue cells are made up of molecules with atoms as their building blocks.
- In the center of every atom is the nucleus. Orbiting the nucleus of the atom are negatively charged electrons.
- When energized protons pass near orbiting electrons, the positive charge of the protons attracts the negatively charged electrons, pulling them out of their orbits. This is called ionization.
- It changes the characteristics of the atom and consequentially the character of the molecule within which the atom resides.
- Because of ionization, the radiation damages molecules within the cells, especially the DNA.
- Damaging the DNA destroys specific cell functions, particularly the ability to divide or proliferate.
- While both normal and cancerous cells go through this repair process, a cancer cell’s ability to repair molecular injury is frequently inferior.
- As a result, cancer cells sustain more permanent damage and subsequent cell death than occurs in the normal cell population.
Why in news?
- There is currently a significant demand-supply gap of proton beam therapy machines in India, with only a few machines available in the country.
- This has resulted in long wait times for patients who need the treatment, and many patients are forced to travel abroad to access the treatment, which can be prohibitively expensive.
- Huge demand: The demand for PBT machines is also increasing, as more and more patients are being diagnosed with cancer and are seeking the latest and most effective treatments available.
- High cost: One of the major challenges in setting up PBT machines is the high cost involved, as the machines are complex and require a significant investment.
- Shortage of personnel: In addition, there is a shortage of trained personnel who can operate and maintain the machines, which further limits their availability.
- The government and private sector need to invest more in setting up and maintaining the machines. This could include-
- Offering tax incentives and subsidies to private healthcare providers who invest in PBT machines
- Providing training and education to personnel who can operate and maintain the machines
- Setting up more public hospitals that offer proton beam therapy, which would help to make the treatment more accessible and affordable to patients who need it