Cancer killers: High-speed protons considered most advanced form of radiation therapy
Said Craig Stevens, M.D., Ph.D., chairman, Radiation Oncology, Beaumont Health, “Beaumont’s Proton Therapy Center is the first in Michigan to treat cancer patients with this powerful and precise form of treatment that deposits energy directly in the tumor, sparing nearby healthy organs and tissue from harm. It was many years in the making, but we never gave up in our efforts to bring this advanced cancer therapy to patients and families in Michigan.”
Beaumont’s center is one of just 25 operational proton therapy centers in the U.S.
“This means that cancer patients from other states and countries will travel to Michigan for proton therapy, making Beaumont even more of a destination center for cancer care,” said Dr. Stevens.
According to independent research, conducted by NRC Health, Beaumont Health is one of the most preferred providers of cancer care in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
How proton therapy works
Proton therapy is a high-tech alternative to X-ray radiation. A scanning beam of proton radiation with online image guidance offers greater precision to destroy cancerous cells, sparing adjacent healthy tissue with fewer side effects.
Proton therapy uses positively charged atomic particles, traveling up to two-thirds the speed of light, to fight cancer. A cyclotron, or particle accelerator, creates protons from hydrogen molecules. The proton beam is sent to the treatment room through a transport system consisting of magnets, called the beam line, finally arriving in the gantry, a device that rotates around the patient. The beam is directed to the patient through a nozzle that targets the tumor.
While proton therapy is not effective against all cancers, Dr. Stevens explained it is effective in treating many solid and localized tumors, including:
- pediatric cancers
- soft tissue cancers that develop in bone or muscle
- brain and skull base tumors
- eye tumors
- head/neck cancers
- abdominal/pelvic tumors
- liver tumors
- lung and thoracic cancers
- left-side breast cancer
“Proton therapy is an ideal treatment option for many patients, especially those with tumors close to vital organs,” added Dr. Stevens. “For children, those most vulnerable and susceptible to the damage of traditional radiation therapy, proton therapy offers less radiation exposure while reducing side effects.”
“Our IBA ProteusOne single-room treatment system includes precision technologies,” said Dr. Stevens. “Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy, which combines Pencil Beam Scanning and 3-D Cone Beam CT, can target a tumor within less than a millimeter.”
Pencil Beam Scanning refers to the delivery of protons in a thin beam. Like a pencil, the beam uses back and forth motions to target the treatment area – the shape, size and depth. It “paints” a radiation dose on tumors layer by layer. Compared to X-ray beams, which pass through a patient, proton beams deliver targeted radiation to the tumor and then stop – resulting in no exit dose.
Radiation oncologists at Beaumont are well versed in precise image guidance, having developed cone beam CT technology almost 20 years ago. Image guidance allows doctors to analyze soft tissue and bone contrast to see tumor changes.
Unlike larger, multiroom proton treatment facilities, Beaumont’s compact, single-room treatment center is more affordable to build and maintain. Along with advanced, image-guided technology, Beaumont’s facility includes the Philips Ambient Experience system that lets patients select a color theme, music and video for relaxation during treatment.
“Our center offers the most advanced proton technology available anywhere in the world,” said Dr. Stevens. “We will have the ability to potentially cure patients that have failed conventional treatment at other centers.”
In February 2015, construction began on the $40 million Proton Therapy Center. The two-story building is 25,200-square-feet, including a basement. The first floor houses the Proton Therapy Center, including a cyclotron and gantry that produces and delivers proton beams to a single-room treatment area. The second floor will soon be the home of Beaumont’s Center for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders.
Beaumont chose Ion Beam Applications S.A., or IBA, of Belgium, to manufacture, install and maintain the proton system. An Atlanta-based proton therapy development group, Proton International, is lending its operational expertise.
Beaumont’s Facilities Management department oversaw design and construction, with Kasco Construction as the contractor and SmithGroupJJR, as the architect.
Comprehensive cancer care
Proton therapy is an important addition to Beaumont’s comprehensive arsenal of leading-edge cancer treatments. Beaumont’s Radiation Oncology department is ranked among the nation’s best for advanced technology, innovative treatment and research. Advanced radiation treatments developed at Beaumont include adaptive radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, intensity-modulated arc therapy, high-dose rate brachytherapy and hyperthermia therapy.
To learn more about the new center and its capabilities, call Beaumont’s Radiation Oncology program at 248-551-8402 or go to www.beaumont.org/proton-therapy.