Proton Therapy to Come to Alabama


Radiation treatment for cancer

Radiation treatment for cancer is an important therapy that has helped many people around the world. The problem is that it is not without side effects that can have dangerous consequences for the people who receive it. When women undergo breast cancer treatment with radiation, they have an increased risk for heart problems due to the heart’s exposure to radiation. Now proton therapy for cancer may provide a lot of the benefits of traditional radiation therapy but fewer side effects. When you look at prostate cancer cures, for instance, this type of therapy is much more targeted. It is a form a radiation but can be used to target the tumor and leave surrounding tissue intact and unharmed.

Recently, Proton International announced a partnership it has recently formed with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The two organizations plan to build a new center to provide proton radiation therapy. Proton International has committed to building seven centers around the world and the Alabama facility is the fourth that is being constructed. This facility will be the first of its kind in the state of Alabama. It has already received approval from an administrative judge who was asked to review the proposal by the Alabama State Health Planning and Development Agency. The construction of this new treatment facility is expected to take about two years so it should be ready to open sometime in 2019. The facility will be owned by Proton International but the clinical services, training and research will all fall under the purview of the doctors from the UAB.

Will Ferniany, PhD, and CEO of the UAB Health System, said, “This is a significant step forward in cancer treatment for residents of Alabama and surrounding areas. Proton therapy is an extremely advanced cancer-fighting technology. Coupled with the skill, experience and resources of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UAB Proton Therapy Center will be a life changing resource for thousands of cancer patients throughout our region.”

Chris Chandler founder and CEO of Proton International, said, “UAB is joining a stellar group of 25 of the nation’s top hospitals and cancer treatment centers providing proton therapy to patients. This center will have advanced proton therapy technology, a fully featured system with dynamic peak pencil beam scanning, developed by Varian Medical Systems an important technology leader.”

John Fiveash, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Radiation Oncology, “Recent advances in imaging have made proton therapy much more viable. It uses sophisticated imaging to create a 3D image of the tumor. It then delivers a focused beam of radiation, custom-sized and shaped, so that it paints the tumor site while leaving surrounding tissue generally untouched, reducing collateral damage.”

By some estimates, as many as 250,000 people with cancer could be helped throughout the United States from the use of proton therapy. The treatment is most often employed to help medical professionals treat cancer tumors that are solid. There are a number of cancers that can be treated. In addition to being considered a prostate cancer cure, it can be used to combat, brain, lung, liver, colon and some breast cancers, to name a few. The treatment is particularly helpful when treating children. Radiation can be a lot harder for children’s bodies to handle. In terms of adult cancers, it is a better prostate cancer cure, for instance, because it carries a lower risk of causing impotence. Both children and adults who are treated with this kind of therapy have shown fewer recurrences of their cancer.

Proton International expects to build this new facility on the UAB campus. The medical staff will all be from UAB and patients will receive their pre-treatment care at the Hazelrig-Salter Radiation Oncology Center, at the UAB. The Hazelrig-Salter Radiation Oncology Center will also be responsible for determining which patients will receive the proton therapy. They will be able to determine which patients who are seeking a prostate cancer cure will be best helped by the new cancer therapy.

As was noted, Proton International has committed to building seven of these centers. Two are being built now and one has been slated to begin being constructed later this year. For the project in Alabama, they are working with Varian Medical Systems.


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