Dr. Isabelle Choi

The NAPT's annual proton therapy meeting is almost here

March 15, 2021
by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief
With the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) annual meeting right around the corner, HealthCare Business News checked in with Dr. Isabelle Choi who, in addition to being an NAPT board member and the chair of the association’s newly formed physician advisory committee, is also a practicing radiation oncologist at New York Proton Center.

HCB News: How did you first become interested in proton therapy and the NAPT?
Dr. Isabelle Choi: I first learned about proton therapy during my radiation oncology training. I had a young patient who had significant toxicity from photon treatment, and when I heard that proton therapy could be a way to significantly reduce side effects for my patients, I became very interested in this advanced modality. As I progressed in my career and encountered challenges in providing my patients, who would genuinely benefit from its tissue sparing capabilities, with access to proton therapy, I wanted to learn more about how I could change the reimbursement climate and how to increase access to proton therapy for my patients, which led to my involvement in NAPT.

HCB News: You've recently been appointed the chair of the NAPT's Physician Advisory Committee. From a top-level perspective, what are the committee's goals?
IC: I’m excited to lead these expert proton therapy physicians. The group is charged with helping NAPT expand proton therapy insurance coverage guidelines, support clinical trials, and develop proton therapy disease-specific research summaries for patients and providers to expand the ability for patients to receive this advanced modality. With these key leaders, we are well-positioned to support NAPT's mission to increase patient access to proton therapy.

HCB News: Are healthcare providers and oncologists outside of leading academic hospitals aware of proton therapy's value?
IC: While most radiation and medical oncologists are aware of proton therapy, most likely do not know of its true potential benefits and which patients might be best treated with proton therapy. A goal of NAPT is to increase healthcare practitioners' awareness of the clinical benefits of proton therapy. I, with many of the other experts on NAPT’s Physician Advisory Committee will be presenting new research and giving invited lectures on proton therapy at the annual meetings for NAPT, as well as the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), American College of Radiation Oncology (ACRO), Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG), and others. As more clinical research demonstrates the value of proton therapy, the cancer community will become more aware of the significant value of proton therapy.

HCB News: Are there any resources available to smaller hospitals or regional providers seeking to partner with proton facilities?
IC: We encourage health systems that do not have this technology to partner with proton centers to develop avenues for providing this modality to their patients. There are currently 37 operating proton centers in the United States, and many already have such relationships with other private or academic radiation oncology groups and practices that do not themselves deliver proton therapy.

HCB News: In the past year, has the reimbursement situation changed at all for proton therapy?
IC: Yes. We have seen several major insurance providers expand the coverage indications for proton therapy in their guidelines, opening up coverage for more patients. But some patients still struggle with a long pre-authorization process that delays treatment, and others continue to receive denials due to a lack of knowledge or update data analyses from commercial insurance providers. Advocating for expanding the access of proton therapy is a driving mission of NAPT.

HCB News: The NAPT is holding its virtual meeting in April. Is there anything at the meeting you're particularly excited about?
IC: We will meet again virtually to allow our healthcare leaders to remain committed to patient care as we share knowledge and ideas together safely during the pandemic. The meeting will include two days of exceptional lectures from many of the leaders in our field. This year, the meeting will also newly feature small group discussion opportunities such as “Meet the Expert” sessions. I am excited about these sessions as they will further ensure that attendees interact with each other, share ideas and knowledge, and listen to presentations. I am also excited to hear from the keynote speaker, Grace Eline, a dynamic young woman who is a cancer survivor and advocate for children with cancer. She and her mother will provide the patient perspective on proton therapy and offer an inspiring session for attendees.