A treatment for brain cancer in children that has been thought to be too expensive, isn’t, according to findings from a study Washington University researchers participated in.

Proton therapy delivers precise radiation doses to a tumor to spare healthy organs and tissues, making it safer than traditional photon therapy. Doctor Raymond Mailhot Vega with the Washington University School of Medicine says the hangup about using it has been the cost.

“Capital investment of construction of a facility has been approximated at $140-million dollars. That’s a huge investment to undertake especially in our climate of today. I think it’s important to demonstrate cost-effectiveness … whether it be to show that it is, or not.”

The study looked at treating medulloblastoma brain tumors, a type of fast-growing tumor that mainly effects children. It found that among several 18-year-olds assumed to have been diagnosed at age 5 the treatment decreased the risks of hearing loss, secondary malignancy and heart failure, resulting in a cost savings of more than 95 percent in study simulations.

“What it ultimately demonstrated was that proton therapy had been cost-effective, with the important caveat that this is with the best data available.”

Vega says the treatment might prove cost-effective and cost-saving for treating other types of cancer.