Carolyn Poirot email@example.com
North Texas is getting a 220-ton cancer-fighting machine. The Texas Center for Proton Therapy will be the first cancer treatment facility in North Texas to provide proton radiation treatment, the most precise, highly targeted radiation therapy available. Ground was broken at 1501 W. Royal Lane in Irving on May 15 for the 63,000-square-foot, free-standing out-patient facility. It will house a 220-ton cyclotron, which generates protons to destroy malignant tumors. The center should be ready for patient care in early 2016 and, when fully operational, is expected to treat about 100 patients per day over a 16-hour day, five days a week. Proton therapy is used to treat solid tumors, including cancers of the prostate, lung, liver, esophagus, brain and the lymphatic system and tumors wrapped around vital organs in both adults and children, especially children, said Dr. Scott Cheek, medical director at Texas Oncology-Baylor Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas. “Proton therapy is particularly advantageous against tumors in very sensitive areas like the spine, eyes, head and neck and for pediatric patients whose bodies and tissues are still growing,” Cheek said. “It allows us to destroy the cancer with very minimal damage to surrounding tissue.” Baylor Health Care System, based in Dallas, is building the high-tech facility in conjunction with Texas Oncology, an association of 350 doctors and more than 100 cancer clinics in Texas. It is the largest physician group of cancer specialists in the state. Proton treatment uses a beam of protons that enter the body with a very low radiation dose, stop at the margin of the tumor, match its shape and volume with the amount of radiation needed to destroy it, deposit their cancer-fighting energy and exit with minimal leftover radiation, Cheek explained. With traditional “external beam radiation,” X-ray beams travel full-force through both healthy and cancerous tissue to get to tumors and destroy them. Proton treatment is not expected to replace traditional external beam radiation, but is considered adjunct therapy for use in addition to traditional radiation and chemotherapy, Cheek said. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston opened only the third proton therapy center in the nation and the first in Texas in 2006. There are still only 11 in the country, including one in Oklahoma City. The Irving location was chosen in part because it is midway between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field and has motels and other overnight accommodations and restaurants nearby. Currently, patients for whom the treatment is appropriate are referred to Houston, Oklahoma City or another location where the patient has some family support because treatment requires 30 to 40 sessions over six to eight weeks, Cheek said. Dallas-Fort Worth is the largest metropolitan area in the country without a proton therapy treatment center, Cheek said. The new center will include exam rooms; treatment planning rooms; PET, CT and MRI scanning; offices; laboratories; three treatment rooms, and patient education and support rooms. “The overwhelming factor [in establishing a proton therapy facility in the Fort Worth-Dallas area] was the fact that our population continues to grow in age and numbers, which means more cancer will arise,” Cheek said. In 2013, a projected 112,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Texas, he noted. “I’m very excited about this. It is going to be great for our patients,” Cheek said.