Cyclotron installed at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,123 views 

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Radiation Oncology Center marked an important milestone Thursday (Oct. 20) with the installation of its Proton Center cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator that serves as a key piece of equipment. It’s part of a $65 million expansion project.

“UAMS is proud to partner with Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health and Proton International to bring this groundbreaking technology to Arkansas,” said UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson. “Arkansans will no longer need to travel out of state to receive this innovative treatment.”

The Proton Center of Arkansas will offer an advanced form of radiation treatment that uses precisely-focused protons to target tumors, rather than photons used in standard X-ray radiation.

While both forms of radiation kill cancer cells, proton radiation is more effective in treating some cancers, particularly those in close vicinity of critical organs for which conventional radiation can be too toxic. Proton beams can be precisely conformed to target and release most of their energy directly into a tumor with minimal damages to surrounding healthy tissue. For patients, that means fewer and less severe side effects, faster recovery time and an overall better quality of life.

“The realization of proton therapy in Arkansas demonstrates our commitment to bringing the most advanced cancer treatments to Arkansas,” said Dr. Michael Birrer, director of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and UAMS vice chancellor. “For patients with tumors that are difficult to treat with conventional radiation, proton therapy could be life-changing.”

Proton radiation is ideal for pediatric patients with certain cancers because it limits total radiation exposure to healthy, growing tissues. UAMS’ Radiation Oncology Center is the only one in the state that treats children.

“This collaboration advances health care delivery and will provide Arkansas Children’s pediatric cancer patients with proton therapy in their home state,” said Marcy Doderer, FACHE, president and CEO of Arkansas Children’s. “This is another exciting step toward state-of-the-art care close to home for the children of Arkansas.”

Including UAMS, proton centers exist in only 41 locations in the United States.

Construction began in May 2021. The Proton Center is expected to begin treating patients in September 2023.

“This is another example of how strategic collaboration with other leading health care providers can improve the health of Arkansans,” said Troy Wells, president and CEO of Baptist Health. “We’re happy to be bringing this therapy to the state, and this delivery of the cyclotron puts us one step closer to providing the best cancer care right here in Arkansas.”

The three new linear accelerators — machines that customize high-energy X-rays — provide edge radiosurgery, a specialized nonsurgical technique used to destroy tumors in the brain and spine with end-to-end accuracy of less than 1 millimeter; radiotherapy with motion management, which controls radiation directed at tumors that move as patients breathe; and adaptive therapy, the most advanced form of cancer treatment, which allows clinicians to adapt to daily changes in the tumors’ shape and position over the course of treatment to better target the cancer and spare normal tissues.