Proton beam radiation therapy is safer and equally effective as traditional radiation for adults with advanced cancers, researchers reported in study findings in JAMA Oncology.

In the retrospective, nonrandomized comparative effectiveness study, researchers assigned 1,483 adult patients with nonmetastatic, locally advanced cancer treated with concurrent chemoradiotherapy with curative intent to receive either proton beam therapy (n = 391) or traditional radiation therapy (n = 1,092). They found that 12% of patients receiving proton therapy experienced severe side effects, compared to 28% in the radiation therapy group. No difference existed in disease-free or overall survival.

Although the study had some limitations that prevent generalizing the findings, the researchers concluded that “proton chemoradiotherapy was associated with significantly reduced acute adverse events that caused unplanned hospitalizations.”

They added that their findings “raise the tantalizing possibility that the higher up-front cost of proton therapy may be offset by cost savings from reduced hospitalizations and enhanced productivity from patients and caregivers.”

Additional studies are needed to confirm the results.