Scripps Health, a private, non-profit health system in San Diego, California, has opened the first proton therapy centre in the US to exclusively offer pencil-beam scanning technology for cancer treatment.
The $220m centre, located at 9730 Summers Ridge Road in Mira Mesa, is the 15th proton facility in the country.
The 102,000ft² facility is equipped with a sophisticated piece of equipment called a cyclotron, which weighs around 95t and generates proton beam using hydrogen and oxygen to create a plasma stream.
Protons are extracted and then accelerated to roughly 100,000 miles per second, which is then harnessed by clinicians to precisely direct this energy against tumours, thereby reducing exposure to healthy tissue.
Varian Medical Systems developed, installed and validated the centre’s ProBeam proton delivery system, which received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year.
Scripps Proton Therapy Center medical director Dr Carl Rossi said that X-rays penetrate entirely through the body, whereas a proton beam can be controlled to stop where the tumor stops.
"This is important, because less radiation to healthy tissue means patients are more likely to tolerate their treatments better and are less likely to have problems in the long run related to their treatment," Dr Rossi added.
Scripps Proton Therapy Center offers five treatment rooms, all of which feature pencil-beam scanning technology.
Pencil-beam scanning allows the clinical team to manipulate the protons so their energy conforms to each tumour’s unique shape.
In addition, three of the rooms feature gantries: three-storey machines that can rotate 360°, allowing proton radiation to be directed at a tumour from the most effective angles.
The facility is currently treating patients in select rooms, with commissioning and clinical use of all treatment rooms expected in 2014.
The centre offers on-site access to the sophisticated imaging technology needed for accurate tumour targeting, including CT and PET-CT scanners and an MRI machine.
Scripps Health has also announced a new affiliation agreement with Rady Children’s Hospital and UC San Diego Health System, allowing physicians from both organisations to treat their own cancer patients in the Mira Mesa facility.
Scripps Proton Therapy Center, which includes a lobby with large expanses of glass for natural lighting, modular stone walls and wood and tile design accents, has been designed to provide a comforting, emotionally supportive environment for healing.
Children and their families will have access to special areas designed specifically for paediatric patients, including a dedicated entrance, anesthesia area and recovery room.
The facility was developed and is owned by Advanced Particle Therapy. When fully operational, the centre will have the capacity to treat up to 2,400 patients annually.
Scripps Health provides the centre’s clinical management and Scripps Clinic oversees the medical services.
Scripps president and CEO Chris Van Gorder said the Scripps Proton Therapy Center features one of the most advanced, accurate treatments available for cancer care.
"The center exemplifies innovation and collaboration and we are proud to bring this life-saving technology to our region with our affiliates," Van Gorder added.