Set for 2023 Opening
In good news for Arkansas cancer patients, the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute will open the state’s first proton therapy center in 2023. The Cancer Institute is partnering with Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health and Proton International to build the new center that will provide a more advanced and precise form of radiation treatment for children and adults with solid tumors.
Construction of the three-story, 52,249 square foot center will double UAMS’ current radiation therapy center space and will be one of only 41 proton therapy centers nationwide. At present, patients must travel to Memphis, Tennessee, or Shreveport, Louisiana for the nearest proton therapy treatment.
Proton therapy is a state-of-the-art technology that uses a precisely focused high-energy beam to target tumors, often in hard-to-reach areas, without affecting surrounding tissue. The treatment is particularly effective in treating solid cancer tumors, including tumors of the brain, spine, head and neck, lung, prostate, colon and some breast tumors.
But it’s the ability to better treat children with cancer that excites Kevin Bielamowicz, M.D., pediatric oncologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatric hematology and oncology at UAMS.
“Proton therapy hopes to reduce the radiation exposure to normal body structures with more targeted delivery of radiation to tumors and cancer,” said Bielamowicz. “This is especially important in the developing brain of a young child. Radiation to the brain can have long term side effects including impairment of a child’s learning and development, hormone deficiencies, second cancers and stroke among others.”
“High-tech advances such as the Proton Center will provide first-rate care for more people as well as attract even more world-class doctors and researchers as UAMS continues its pursuit of the National Cancer Institute Designation,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA.
“The partnership of UAMS with Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health and Proton International ensures that Arkansas will continue to be a place of healing for thousands of cancer patients.”
UAMS Radiation Oncology Department Chair Fen Xia, M.D., Ph.D., who has treated more than 1,000 cancer patients in her two decades of experience, says patients who receive proton therapy will likely have a better of quality of life.
“The good news is that more patients are surviving cancer and living longer,” said Xia. “It’s always great when we stop the growth of the disease, but there are often side effects of traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatment that patients struggle with for the rest
of their lives.”
“It’s the targeting ability of proton therapy that allows the oncologist to deliver treatment to the tumor and spare normal tissue,” she said. “Especially for young children, this is very important. We can be more precise and limit radiation exposure to the rest of the body.”