UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 16

research update UAB Brings Proton Therapy for Advanced Cancer Treatment to Birmingham B y B O B S H E PA R D UAB will partner with Proton International to bring proton therapy, one of the most technically advanced forms of cancer-killing radiation, to Alabama. Proton therapy delivers a more precise dose of radiation to a tumor and can avoid damage to healthy surrounding tissue better than conventional X-ray radiation. “This is a significant step forward in cancer treatment for residents of Alabama and surrounding areas. Proton therapy is an extremely advanced cancer- fighting radiation technology.” Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of the UAB Health System 14 U A B “This is a significant step forward in cancer treatment for residents of Alabama and surrounding areas,” says Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of the UAB Health System. “Proton therapy is an extremely advanced cancer- fighting radiation technology. Coupled with the skill, experience and resources of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UAB Proton Therapy Center will be a life-changing resource for thousands of cancer patients throughout our region.” Proton International, one of the world’s leading developers of proton radiation facilities, will build the UAB Proton Center on the current site of parking lot 55, at 20th Street and Fifth Avenue. UAB physicians and staff will operate the center. “Proton therapy will allow us to treat deep- seeded cancers and minimize the radiation dose delivered to surrounding normal structures,” says James A. Bonner, M.D., the Merle M. Salter Endowed Professor, Chairman of the UAB School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology and president of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation. “This will be the first proton therapy center in Alabama, and we are excited to offer this cutting-edge approach for patients and families in Birmingham, across Alabama and beyond.” C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R There are 25 active proton therapy centers in the United States, most affiliated with major cancer centers. The roughly $50-million project has been approved by an administrative law judge appointed by the Alabama State Health Planning and Development Agency. Groundbreaking is expected in the summer of 2017, and construction and testing will take about two years before the building is clinically operational. “Proton therapy is already having a tremendous impact on the health of people around the world,” says Chris Chandler, CEO of Proton International. “Experts conservatively estimate that about 250,000 cancer patients in the United States alone could benefit from proton therapy. We are excited to partner with UAB and put this outstanding tool into the hands of the best oncologists in Alabama.” Proton therapy uses an aimed beam of protons directed at the tumor site. The beam is configured to deliver the majority of its energy precisely at the tumor location. Healthy tissue in front of the tumor receives a minimal amount of energy, and tissue behind the tumor receives very little. This reduces the damage to healthy tissue that is common in the use of conventional X-ray radiation and is the cause of most side effects. “Recent advances in imaging have made proton therapy much more viable,” says John