You may have seen construction underway next to the Mayo Clinic Hospital at the 56th St exit of the North 101 Freeway loop, just a mile from Scottsdale. The building, scheduled to open in 2016, is the home of the new Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program in the Phoenix metropolitan area. This program is an extension of Mayo’s Cancer Treatment centers.
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Proton beam therapy is the latest cancer treatment available for patients. Mayo Clinic is building proton beam facilities in both Minnesota and Arizona. Both facilities will have 4 treatment rooms.
The addition of proton therapy at Mayo Clinic expands their radiation capability. Mayo Clinic’s program is different from others in the United States because it will exclusively have intensity-modulated proton beam therapy.
Proton beam therapy targets only the tumor and minimizes harm to surrounding healthy tissue. It is used to treat cancers located deep in the body, close to critical organs and body structures, especially in children and young adults. (Other forms of radiation therapy for children sometimes slows the growth of their healthy tissue.)
Proton therapy is beneficial in the treatment of many kinds of tumors (head and neck, eye, central nervous system, lung, sarcomas, gastrointestinal, prostate, and many pediatric cancers).
Mayo’s treatment rooms will all have the latest type of proton therapy, called pencil beam scanning. Pencil beam scanning does just that, it uses spot scanning and ‘paints’ dots of protons through a tumor.
Protons are the positive energy parts of an atom. They are generated by a machine called a particle accelerator. Using the pencil beam, the proton stops after striking the target. It can be more finitely controlled so higher doses of radiation can be delivered with shorter treatment times and reduced side effects.
There are currently 11 proton beam facilities in the United States and another 13 under construction. Not all have the pencil beam scanning that Mayo Clinic will offer.
While proton therapy is still in its infancy, Mayo Clinic’s priority is to support the treatment’s advancement. The Minnesota and Arizona facilities are working together to have joint clinical studies to assure they learn and grow quickly. One shared database will be used so information can be shared and analyzed on an ongoing basis.
Mayo is expected to give the highest treatment priority to children, young adults and healthy older adults with curable cancers. As with any medical decisions at Mayo, a team of physicians will review eligible patients.
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