SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Glenn Rossman, Cynthia Dunlop

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Cyclotron Arrival Marks Milestone in Construction of Advanced Cancer Treatment Center

Two hundred twenty tons of new hope for cancer patients came to North Texas early today with the arrival of the massive cyclotron at the Texas Center for Proton Therapy. The center, a collaboration of Texas Oncology, The US Oncology Network, and McKesson Specialty Health, is expected to treat its first patients in early 2016.

The new cyclotron is the only second-generation proton therapy technology in Texas and is the centerpiece of the Irving-Las Colinas facility. The cyclotron, a magnet-packed particle accelerator, creates protons that travel up to two-thirds the speed of light through a 143-foot beamline – nearly half the length of a football field – to the patient’s tumor with pinpoint accuracy.

The therapy is especially beneficial for treating cancers requiring extreme precision such as tumors in the brain, eye, spine, head and neck, as well as pediatric patients. The beam’s exceptional accuracy minimizes side effects and damage to surrounding healthy tissue and enables patients to maintain their quality of life during and after treatment.

“Texas Oncology is excited to bring this remarkable technology to the area to help create more cancer survivors. The size and weight of the cyclotron belie the precision that this form of radiation treatment delivers in destroying cancer cells,” said Dr. Steven Paulson, chairman and president of Texas Oncology. “The proton therapy center reaffirms our commitment to create more hope for cancer patients by adding leading-edge technology to complement the existing array of advanced cancer treatment choices for the 119,000 Texans that will be diagnosed with cancer this year.”

An odyssey ends

The arrival of the cyclotron marks the end of a complex, month-long odyssey for the equipment, which began in Belgium on May 21. Manufactured by Ion Beam Applications S.A. (IBA) in Belgium, the 220-ton cyclotron was shipped in two sections, bolted to the hull of the ship to balance the unusually heavy cargo and to prevent capsizing. After more than 5,000 miles at sea, the cyclotron traveled from the Port of Houston to Irving by land, on two 19-axle trucks via an indirect route due to its massive size and weight. A specialized crane then carefully hoisted it into place in the facility.

“The delivery of the cyclotron is an impressive logistical feat that signifies an important construction milestone. We’re pleased to have completed one more step in bringing this advanced treatment to North Texas,” said Kirk Kaminsky, president of The US Oncology Network and Provider Services for McKesson Specialty Health.

Construction continues

Although physical construction of the center, with a fixed beam and two isocentric gantry treatment rooms, is more than 80 percent complete, highly technical work will fill the next several months as the advanced technology behind the lifesaving treatment is carefully set, calibrated, and tested.

“Physicists and engineers from IBA and Texas Oncology physicists will be on site to manage the meticulous calibration and testing of the proton beam equipment,” said Gary Barlow, director of the Texas Center for Proton Therapy. “What makes this therapy so effective is its extraordinary precision in targeting the proton beams on the tumor. To do that, we have to calibrate the machine to submillimeter accuracy.”

Patient-centered care

Texas Oncology’s patient-centered approach to care will be evident in the new center, which has been designed to create a positive and supportive patient experience. The center will offer a full range of concierge services, focused therapeutic activities for patients, families, and caregivers, and a children’s activities room/learning center. Patients undergoing proton therapy treatment will also have access to on-site laboratory services and the newest PET/CT and MRI imaging technology.

The center’s community room will feature the “HOPE Wall,” a seven-foot wall filled with hand-written messages of encouragement and support from participants in the center’s May 2013 groundbreaking ceremonies – and highlighting the essential role of community support in fighting cancer.

About the Collaboration

Texas Oncology and The US Oncology Network, supported by McKesson Specialty Health, and Baylor Health Enterprises, an affiliate of Baylor Health Care System, are collaborating to develop a proton therapy facility in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The advanced treatment facility will provide services through Texas Oncology, an independent oncology practice based in Dallas with locations throughout Texas and southeastern Oklahoma. Texas Oncology is affiliated with The US Oncology Network, which includes privately held community-based oncology practices across the country.

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