Mayo Clinic introduces new proton beam cancer treatment facility
ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- -
It is a ground breaking technology that is 12 years, and $190 million in the making. The Mayo Clinic is entering a new era in medicine with its proton beam treatment facility.
It's the heralding of a new era. Beyond the walls of the Richard O. Jacobson building lies a turning point in Med City cancer care. Yet walking through its doors, a patient might feel like they're walking into a therapeutic spa.
"We want them to feel very welcome here and very comfortable, and realize that this is a place of healing for them, and hopefully many happy moments," says Dr. Robert Foote of the radiation oncology division.
With beautiful art displays hanging on the walls, it's serene welcome to the home of cancer's greatest enemy.
"We think it's the cleanest, most accurate type of proton beam therapy available," says Dr. Michael Herman, chair of the Division of Medical Physics.
Not one, but four proton beams are ready for patients in the building--they are gargantuan machines designed to provide the most cutting edge radiation treatment.
To begin their journey, the scenic walls of Minnesota nature snapshots guide a patient directly to a chance for a cure.
"The biggest difference between proton radiation therapy and conventional x-ray radiation therapy is the way the dose is deposited in the patient," says Herman.
The beam sends the dose through a set of magnets making a direct path to the tumor..it's what makes it an ideal treatment for children, or patients with cancer close to vital organs.
"Because of its physics, it allows us to deliver more dose to the tumor and less dose outside of the tumor," Herman tells us.
The proton beam that attacks the cancer cells is about the size of a pencil, yet that proton beam is created in a room about the size of a football field. It is the room where the protons are accelerated with electricity before being sent to the beam.
"Actually in about two seconds it will travel around the earth about 10 times," says Herman.
Then, it's directed to the gantry--something that looks like it came out of NASA. It's the machine controlling the cancer killing beam.
"This big structure takes the beam from the accelerator side which is on the other side of the concrete walls, and bends the beam around and points it straight at the patient," says Herman.
The whole process is monitored by technicians, just to make sure everything is as precise as planned.
"We have an exact idea of layer by layer and spot by spot how the proton beam is being delivered to the patient," Herman says as he points to a model cancerous mass being filled by the beam. It has been a long road for Herman and Foote to arrive at this moment.
"We needed to know what the state of the art in 2015 was going to be in 2008, 2009, so we selected the pencil beam as the future and it was the right decision and we're really excited about opening the doors very soon here," Herman says.
After 13 years of planning, these doctors are certain this technology will not only make one's cancer journey less painful, but give them the best chance of beating the disease.
"We're more likely to cure the patient of their cancer," Foote says. "So they will live longer, healthier, happier lives."
Just before treated patients get to walk out into the next chapter of their lives, there is one final stop.
"They get to ring the bell, and everyone stands up, claps their hands and cheers for them," Foote says. "It's a big accomplishment."
The facility officially opens to the public on Saturday and will begin the first proton treatments happening in June. Doctors tell us there is already a long list of patients waiting for their shot at beating the disease.
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