This past spring, Orlando Health opened The Marjorie and Leonard Williams Center for Proton Therapy, bringing state-of-the-art cancer treatment options to cancer patients. The center, the first to offer proton therapy treatments in Central Florida, is the third proton therapy center in the state of Florida. Currently there are 23 proton therapy centers in the country and 67 worldwide. The center, named in memory of Marjorie Williams, a patient at UF Health Cancer Center - Orlando Health who passed away in September of 2015 following a courageous battle with cancer, treats cancers of the brain, spine, prostate, lung, breast, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck as well as pediatric cancers, according to Naren Ramakrishna, MD, PhD, Director of the Proton Therapy for the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health.
"The development of this new center is about making proton therapy more accessible," said Dr. Ramakrishna. "Proton therapy is a revolutionary treatment option and it's exciting that we can now offer this to all of our patients."
Proton therapy is a form of radiation therapy that uses proton beams to treat selected tumors in adult and pediatric patients. It precisely targets tumors while limiting the dosage of radiation to adjacent organs. As a result, this type of therapy can potentially limit side effects in all patients, and reduce the effect on growth in pediatric patients. On average, patients undergoing proton therapy receive between 25 and 30 treatments over four to six weeks.
The new center is located along Orange Avenue between Orlando Regional Medical Center and UF Health Cancer Center - Orlando Health. The 15,000-square-foot facility, which took four years to build, consists of three floors--two above ground and one underground--to accommodate the MEVION S250 superconducting synchrocyclotron proton accelerator, an advanced compact proton therapy system. The MEVION system at Orlando Health is the 5th system of its kind operating nationwide and one of only 10 currently planned for the United States and Europe, noted Dr. Ramakrishna.
Discussions to bring proton therapy to Central Florida began a decade ago, when there were only a handful of proton therapy systems around the world. They were known to be massive --the size of a football field--and expensive, costing nearly $300 million. As one of the most advanced radiation oncology departments nationally, the UF Health Cancer Center - Orlando Health were known as leaders in imaging radiation oncology treatment.
"Some of the leaders at our institution wanted to bring more advanced technology to our cancer center," said Dr. Ramakrishna. "They had their eyes on a proton therapy company, Mevion Medical Systems, formerly called Still River Systems, that had developed a high-tech, cancer-blasting technology that would be more accessible to providers. Their idea would decrease the size of the proton therapy unit and decrease the cost. They were very insightful that this would be something that would work for us in buckets."
While it took a number of years to get FDA clearance, the company's idea resulted in the MEVION S250 which requires a much smaller footprint than in the past. The system comprises a superconducting synchrocyclotron that fires protons at energies up to 250 MeV to blast cancers. Its more compact design has lowered the cost for cancer centers--about $25 million to $35 million range for the unit.
More information can be found at www.orlandohealth.com.