Penn Revolutionizes Cancer Care with Roberts Proton Therapy Center
December 1, 2009
A revolution in cancer care officially began at Penn Medicine on November 23, as the Roberts Proton Therapy Center -- the largest and most advanced proton therapy facility in the world -- was dedicated to honor the Roberts family and the many donors and staff members who helped make the cutting-edge $140 million, 75,000 square foot facility a reality.
Advancing Cancer Treatment
Proton therapy is the most precise form of advanced radiation therapy available to treat certain cancers and other diseases. "We're able to aim the beam very precisely at a patient's tumor," explains Stephen M. Hahn, Henry K. Pancoast Professor and Chair, Radiation Oncology. "What that allows us to do is to increase the dose to the patient's tumor and spare the surrounding normal tissue."
This means Penn now has the ability to treat tumors once considered inaccessible -- or too close to critical organs or the spinal cord -- and with fewer side effects and clinical complications.
The Roberts Proton Therapy Center is only one of a handful of such centers in the U.S., but what makes it the world’s most advanced proton therapy center is that it's part of Penn's comprehensive treatment of cancer, one that integrates conventional radiation treatment with proton radiation. As Craig B. Thompson, Director of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, puts it, "The Roberts Proton Therapy Center now gives us a full quiver of arrows to attack this dreaded disease."
Housed within the Department of Radiation Oncology as part of the Abramson Cancer Center, the Roberts Center is located underground, where a 220-ton cyclotron generates beams of protons into five treatment rooms. Four of the rooms feature three-story gantries, steel structures that can rotate 360 degrees to administer treatment. The fifth room features what is called a "fixed beam."
photos and renderings
"The addition of the proton therapy," says M. Sean Grady, Chair, Department of Neurosurgery, "is really about our ability to do anything we can for the patient, whether it's surgery, chemotherapy, proton therapy, or standard radiotherapy. It enables us to do every single thing we can -- and to make choices that we couldn't previously make."
What also puts the Center at the forefront is that it's embedded within an academic medical center, which opens up incredible research opportunities for Penn's world class clinicians and scientists. By leading the way in clinical trials, the Center will advance medical science through evidence-based research, providing new protocols for this groundbreaking form of cancer therapy.
"There's so much potential for this treatment that we haven't met yet," says James Metz, Clinical Director, Deptartment of Radiation Oncology. "This is where academic medical centers can really move the field forward -- figure out the best way to deliver these treatments, do the clinical trials that need to happen, and actually prove that this therapy is going to be a benefit longterm."
Local and Global Impact
The Roberts Proton Therapy Center is an investment in the health and well-being of our region, benefiting patients from around the nation and around the world for generations to come. "This preeminent facility truly represents a revolution in cancer care in the Philadelphia region,” says Ralph W. Muller, CEO of Penn's Health System. "A place like Penn will keep advancing medicine, inventing the future of medicine."
The Center will be ready to begin treating patients by mid-winter, and
will have the capacity to treat about 3,000 patients a year.
Partnerships with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the U.S.
Department of Defense will also allow pediatric cancer patients and
U.S. military service members and their family members to be treated.
"The Roberts Proton Therapy Center represents a quantum leap forward in our capability to save lives and improve life," said Penn President Amy Gutmann. "By harnessing the power of protons, our physicians, clinicians and scientists will revolutionize cancer care and drive the next phase of health-care innovation."
The Roberts Proton Therapy Center was financed in part by a transformational gift of $15 million from the Roberts family. Penn alumnus Ralph J. Roberts is the founder of Comcast Corporation
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