History of Proton Therapy
The advancements of proton technology as a treatment option for cancer are exciting, but not new. The idea of using protons in medical treatment was first suggested in 1946 by physicist Robert R. Wilson, Ph.D. The first attempts to use proton radiation to treat patients began in the 1950s in nuclear physics research facilities, but applications were limited to few areas of the body.
In the late 1970s, imaging advancements coupled with the development of sophisticated computers and improved accelerator and treatment delivery technology made proton therapy more viable for routine medical applications, such as cancer treatment. Only in recent years has it become possible to develop proton beam facilities in conjunction with established medical centers.
In 1946, Robert Wilson proposed the use of proton radiation therapy as a cancer treatment.
In the black-and-white photo here, you see a model of the 1000-Curie Cobolt-60 irradiator with Drs. Marshall, Brucer, Fletcher, Clark and Grimmett.
Today we treat many types of cancer with highly-focused radiation targeting cancerous tissue while sparing healthy tissue.
On Aug. 8, 2019, MD Anderson broke ground for the expansion of the Proton Therapy Center.
On Oct. 16, 2020 MD Anderson celebrated a construction milestone with the topping out of the second Proton Therapy Center building.
Pioneering proton therapy
In 2006, MD Anderson opened the Proton Therapy Center and began treating patients with one of the most advanced and innovative technologies available: proton therapy.
At that time, the center was one of only three in the nation and the first of its kind integrated within a comprehensive cancer hospital , giving patients the benefit of a powerful technology with fewer side effects, all delivered by world-renowned cancer specialists.
Today, MD Anderson remains a leader in the world of proton therapy. We treat many types of cancer with highly-focused radiation targeting cancerous tissue while sparing healthy tissue. As rapid technology chances in radiotherapy, the goal remains to reduce unnecessary radiation to healthy parts of the body.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center unveiled plans to expand its Proton Therapy Center during a groundbreaking ceremony. The expansion will more than double the center’s size to more than 160,000 square feet – almost the size of three football fields – allowing more patients greater access to the most advanced and precise form of radiation therapy.
The estimated completion of the new building is Nov. 2023. The $159 million expansion will be led by Gilbane Building Company and will increase the center size to include a total of eight radiation therapy machines that rotate 360 degrees around a patient to deliver a proton beam to the exact area intended for treatment. The new machines, developed by Hitachi, will deliver intensity-modulated proton therapy, the most precise form of image-guided radiation therapy available. The expansion also will include an additional synchrotron, the massive accelerator that creates the proton beam, as well as rooms with improved design for a better patient experience.
“For over a decade, MD Anderson has led the world in the field of proton therapy,” said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president. “Our physicians and international cancer experts continue to push the boundaries to provide the most innovative care to our patients, and now we are working to provide increased access to that care so even more people can potentially benefit from this important treatment option.”
Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation treatment that uses a beam of protons to deliver radiation directly to the tumor, destroying cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. Protons enter the body with a low radiation dose, stop at the tumor, match its shape and volume or depth, and deposit the bulk of their cancer-fighting energy precisely at the tumor.
This therapy currently is used to treat a number of cancers in adult and pediatric patients, including prostate, lung, head and neck, liver, esophagus, brain and lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
“This expansion is critical for patients who need access to proton therapy,” said Steven J. Frank, M.D., medical director of the Proton Therapy Center. “Our center has been operating at capacity, treating patients 20 hours a day, five days a week. Doubling our size will mean not only that we can treat more patients, but that we can do so using the very latest technology while achieving remarkable efficiency.”
Since opening in 2006, MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center has treated more than 9,300 patients from the United States and across the world within its current 73,500-square-foot facility. In 2018, MD Anderson treated 819 patients with proton therapy, a nearly 11% increase from 2017. Currently, 38% of patients are treated for head and neck cancers, but the center also sees numerous patients for prostate, lung, liver and brain cancers, as well as a range of pediatric cancers.
“As more patients become eligible for proton therapy, we want to make sure that those who need access to protons have the opportunity to receive them,” said Pisters. “This expansion will aid us in our efforts to provide the most-effective treatment for each patient, based on their specific disease.”
Conditions We Treat
Find information about diseases treated with proton therapy.
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