Illinois breaks ground on state's first proton-therapy center
NIU President John Peters and others involved in the project break ground for Illinois' first proton-therapy center on Thursday.
For more than half a century, physicists have built accelerators to study matter, energy, space and time. That same accelerator technology has led to the Thursday celebration to welcome Illinois's first proton-therapy center to fight cancer.
The Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center will be one of fewer than a dozen such centers in the world by the time it opens in 2010.
The center, which will sit adjacent to Fermilab in the DuPage National Technology Park in West Chicago, illustrates the benefits of putting research tools to work to improve the quality of life.
"What we have is a collaboration of science, medicine and education. That is
what this facility is and will be all about," said Cherilyn Murer, NIU board
of trustees chair. "The research that will come out of this facility will
benefit not only this community, not only this state, not only this country,
but we have a global market when we talk about proton therapy."
Current and former Fermilab employees consulted on the $159 million facility operated by Northern Illinois University. Fermilab helped pioneer the use of particle beams from a compact proton accelerator to treat cancer.
|Fermilab Director Pier Oddone speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the Northern Illinois Proton Treament and Research Center, scheduled to open in 2010.
Fermilab designed and built the proton accelerator used by the nation's first hospital-based treatment center to use protons against cancer cells, Loma Linda Proton Treatment Center in California, which opened in the early 1990s.
Today, doctors at an increasing number of cancer treatment centers use beams of protons and neutrons in lieu of the traditional radiation therapy to target different types of cancers. The proton particle beams narrowly target the cancer while sparing surrounding tissue, making it particularly useful for brain and eye tumors and those near the spinal cord.
Varian Medical Systems, the California company that designed the accelerator for the NIU facility, trains many of its accelerator engineers at U.S. Particle Accelerator Schools based at Fermilab.
The 130,000-square-foot NIU treatment and research facility will treat up to 1,500 patients a year.
Particle accelerator laboratories, including Fermilab, have played several roles in targeting cancer, including conducting clinical studies on cancer treatment for decades by using particles from the same accelerators that advance the research of the building blocks of atoms. Construction of the Tevatron collider at Fermilab led to the industrialization of superconducting wires used in MRI equipment, used for the imaging of tumors.
Fermilab's first director, Robert Wilson studied the medical implications of particle beams as early as 1946. Fermilab opened a neutron treatment research center, another form of particle beam cancer treatment, in 1976.