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Construction of the future Proton Center at the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute (Cancer Institute) will reach an important milestone on January 16 with the arrival and installation of a 90-ton cyclotron and related essential components used to deliver advanced radiation therapy.

Weighing as much as a 747 airliner, packed into an 18-foot-wide, 8-feet tall space, the cyclotron is the centerpiece of the technology required to treat patients with this most precise form of radiation.

Cyclotron being transported

The new, state-of-the-art Proton Center in Lancaster marks a new chapter in Penn Medicine’s global leadership in proton therapy clinical care and research, becoming the health system’s second center to offer the treatment. Proton therapy will be added to the Cancer Institute’s broad array of radiation-therapy services uniquely offered in a single location by a community hospital. Expected to be completed by Summer 2022, it will be the first and only proton therapy center in Central Pennsylvania.

The new center builds on Penn Medicine’s groundbreaking proton therapy expertise led by the Roberts Proton Therapy Center in Philadelphia, which opened in 2010. At about 75,000 square feet, With five treatment rooms and a research room dedicated to studying new uses of proton therapy, it is the largest center in the world for both proton and conventional radiation, treating more than 100 patients with proton therapy daily. Experts in the Roberts Center have trained more than 500 medical professionals from across the world, many of whom attend an annual three-day course hosted at Penn. Clinical trials in the Roberts Proton Therapy Center have mapped new treatments for pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and many other diseases which are otherwise difficult to treat with radiation.

Delivery of the cyclotron involves a 20-axle, 210-foot-long trailer truck to transport the unit to the Cancer Institute, and multiple heavy-duty cranes. As a result of its size, its arrival will impact traffic at and around the Cancer Institute, Women & Babies Hospital, and surrounding intersections.

The cyclotron accelerates atoms to near-light speeds to create a healing beam of energy that can then be targeted to kill cancerous/malignant tumors with unprecedented accuracy, without harming nearby healthy tissue or organs.

Proton therapy is perhaps the most advanced treatment for cancer tumors located close to critical organs and highly sensitive areas, such as the spinal cord, heart and brain. It also provides new options for patients whose cancers can’t be complete removed by surgery, or who have previously received conventional radiation in the same area.

Cancer types treated by proton therapy at Penn Medicine include: Brain cancer and spinal tumors, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, gastrointestinal cancer (anal, colon, esophageal, liver, pancreatic, rectal), gynecologic (cervical cancer), kidney cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, mesothelioma, oropharyngeal cancer, pediatric cancer (in conjunction with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), and prostate cancer.

 
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