Fermilab-based cancer center gets financial boost
|An illustration of how neutron therapy attacks cancer cells.
Cutting-edge cancer treatment connected to research done at Fermilab got a boost last month.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Danny Davis worked to secure $6 million in funding for proton and neutron therapy.
The Fermilab-based Institute for Neutron Therapy, which is managed by Northern Illinois University in cooperation with Fermilab and Nuclear Oncology Medical Care, will receive $1.2 million of the funds. The Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center under construction in the DuPage County High Tech Park adjacent to Fermilab will receive $4.8 million.
The Fermilab connections:
Fermilab has treated more than 3,000 patients since it began offering neutron therapy in 1976. About 8,000 patients have been treated worldwide using neutron therapy.
Presently, only Fermilab and the University of Washington provide the treatment. Northern Illinois University manages the non-research element of Fermilab's therapy center.
Fermilab produces neutrons by steering the surplus from the proton beam in the linear accelerator into a beryllium target. Low-carbon steel blocks fixed in concrete shape the neutrons into a narrow beam, which are then targeted at the cancerous tumor.
Fermilab has had a less direct, but equally important influence on proton therapy.
Fermilab designed and built the proton accelerator that was used by the nation's first hospital-based treatment center, Loma Linda Proton Treatment Center in California. Fermilab helped pioneer the use of particle beams from a compact proton accelerator to treat cancer.
Current and former Fermilab employees consulted on the proton treatment center under construction in West Chicago, which Northern Illinois University will oversee.
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 130,000-square-foot NIU treatment and research facility will treat up to 1,500 patients a year.
-- Tona Kunz