March 25, 2011

Advanced therapy for cancer coming

The gantry, or supporting structure, of a proton therapy machine.

The world's most advanced radiation treatment for cancer patients could come to Georgia through a key effort by Emory Healthcare.

Emory Healthcare has signed a letter of intent with Advanced Particle Therapy, LLC, of Minden, Nev., to explore development of the Georgia Proton Treatment Center — Georgia's first proton therapy facility. 

Proton therapy is frequently used in the care of children diagnosed with cancer, as well as in adults who have small, well-defined tumors in organs such as the prostate, brain, head, neck, bladder, lungs or the spine.

For certain cancers, proton therapy offers a more precise and aggressive approach to destroying cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, as compared to conventional X-ray radiation.

Proton therapy involves the use of a controlled beam of protons to target tumors with precision unavailable in other radiation therapies.

The precise delivery of proton energy may limit damage to healthy surrounding tissue, potentially resulting in lower side effects to the patient, the National Association for Proton Therapy says.  This precision also allows for a more effective dose of radiation to be used. 

Currently, there are only nine proton therapy centers in the United States, the closest facility being the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville.

"Emory will play a leading role in bringing this highly advanced cancer therapy to Georgia," says Walter J. Curran, Jr., executive director of the Emory's Winship Cancer Institute and chair of Department of Radiation Oncology.  "In addition, we will work to expand its utility and access for patients through collaborative research projects with Georgia Tech and other institutions." 

Under the letter of intent, Emory Healthcare faculty and staff will provide physician services, medical direction and other administrative services to the center.

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