Mayo Clinic opens $188 million proton beam radiation facility

The Mayo Clinic has opened a proton beam radiation facility in Rochester to provide more precise treatment for cancer patients.

Clinic officials gave tours of the unit Friday and plan to begin treating patients in June, said the Rochester Post Bulletin.

The $188 million project has taken 13 years of research and planning and more than three years of construction.

It’s billed as a better, more focused radiation option for treatment of cancer, particularly in children, although some critics say that proton beam centers are contributing to the “medical arms race” because the therapy costs 70 percent more than other radiation therapy, according to some estimates, and that there are still questions about outcomes and insurance coverage, the story said.

Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy has said that all Mayo proton beam therapy patients will become part of a registry to track outcomes, and the clinic “will use the proton beam only if it is the best treatment for the right patients.”

Mayo’s program director Dr. Robert Foote told the paper that treating childhood cancers is a main priority. Children’s organs are still growing and excess radiation from other methods can cause medical problems as they children age.

The story said research indicates that “early proton beam technology exposed children with Hodgkin lymphoma to 50 percent less radiation than conventional therapy. Data from early proton beam patients show the return of malignancy was reduced from 12.8 percent to 6.4 percent.”

“In a sub-population,” Foote said, “it eliminated side effects completely.”

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