Emory to launch Varian proton therapy facility

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Emory Healthcare in Atlanta has signed a letter of intent with Advanced Particle Therapy, opening the door to a final exploratory phase for development of the Georgia Proton Treatment Center.

The proton therapy center will have five treatment rooms and dedicated research capabilities. The FDA-approved proton system will be provided by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems, a provider of proton therapy and radiation oncology equipment.

Under the letter of intent, Emory faculty and staff will provide physician services, medical direction and other administrative services to the center. Advanced Particle Therapy, through Georgia Proton Treatment Center, (GPTC) will design, build, equip and own the center. The facility, which will be funded by GPTC, will be approximately 100,000 square feet and is expected to cost approximately $200 million. Site selection for the Atlanta facility is under way.

Once operational, the center will be staffed by approximately 110 proton therapy-trained professionals including radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiation therapists, medical support and administrative staff. The center will treat approximately 1,900 patients annually.

For certain cancers, proton therapy offers a more precise and aggressive approach to destroying cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, as compared to conventional x-ray radiation. Proton therapy involves the use of a beam of protons to target tumors, and is frequently used in the care of children diagnosed with cancer, as well as in adults who have small, well-defined tumors in organs, such as the prostate, brain, head, neck, bladder, lungs or the spine. 

Currently there are only nine proton therapy centers in the U.S., including centers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Advanced Particle Therapy, based in Minden, Nev., has taken on the same role in the development of similar centers in San Diego, teaming with Scripps Health and Scripps Clinic Medical Group, and in Baltimore with the University of Maryland School of Medicine.