St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Opens First Proton Therapy Center for Children

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital officials and guests recently marked the opening of the St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center in Memphis, Tennessee, the first proton therapy center in the world dedicated solely to children with cancer.

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Executives from Hitachi, Ltd., Red Frog Events and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital were present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Proton Therapy Center, the world’s first dedicated solely to the treatment of children.

Patients are now being treated at the center using precisely delivered, high-energy particles called protons to kill or shrink tumors while minimizing damage to healthy tissue and organs. For patients with brain tumors and certain other cancers, research suggests proton beam therapy may be more effective than conventional radiation at preventing the growth and spread of tumors while reducing the risk of treatment-related side effects.

The $90-million center includes the linear accelerator, a synchrotron, a three-story rotating gantry, powerful magnets and other equipment necessary to generate and deliver high-energy protons to tumors using small, carefully calibrated beams. The beams, which may include protons traveling at almost two-thirds the speed of light, are measured in millimeters. The system features advanced imaging technology, including cone-beam CT to provide a 3-D image of the patient’s anatomy to achieve precise positioning for treatment. The depth and intensity of the proton beam is guided by advanced control systems to conform to the shape of the tumor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the features unique to the St. Jude proton therapy system Nov. 2.

The center also contains three proton therapy treatment rooms, treatment preparation and recovery rooms for patients plus a musical staircase that leads to a rain forest-inspired waiting room. The center’s multidisciplinary staff includes specialists from oncology, radiation therapy, imaging, nursing, child life and other disciplines.

The center is located in the Kay Research and Care Center, which opened earlier this year and also houses a state-of-the-art surgery and intensive care unit, the Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration and other facilities. The center is named in honor of Red Frog Events. In 2013 the company’s co-CEOs, Kunkel and Joe Reynolds, pledged to raise $25 million to bring proton beam therapy to the hospital’s campus.

In designing the center, Merchant and other St. Jude researchers worked closely with Hitachi Ltd., the company that produced the hospital’s proton beam system. The system includes a compact design with a footprint that is about 40 percent smaller than conventional proton beam therapy systems.

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Posted December 23, 2015

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