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National Taiwan University Hospital Physicians Tour Site of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Future Proton Beam Therapy Center

August 18, 2009
New Brunswick, NJ- A delegation from National Taiwan University Hospital recently toured the future site of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s (RWJUH) proton beam radiation therapy treatment center to learn more about the technology in preparation for building their own center in coming years.

Pan-Chyr Yang, MD, PhD, Dean and Professor of Internal Medicine; and Ming-Fong Chen, MD, PhD, Superintendent and Professor of Internal Medicine; wanted to learn more about technology because they hope to establish a similar center at their hospital. During the tour, they met with physicians and representatives from RWJUH, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Still River Systems, the Massachusetts-based company which manufactured RWJUH’s proton beam.

Shown touring the center, are from left to right:

RWJUH anticipates opening its proton beam radiation treatment center in 2010. The center will be the first of its kind to the New Jersey and New York region and arrival of proton beam radiation therapy represents a significant advance in the range of cancer treatment options that are currently available to New Jersey and New York residents. 

Unlike traditional forms of radiation therapy, proton beams can precisely target a cancerous tumor without harming or destroying surrounding tissue and organs with high doses of radiation. It often has fewer or less severe side effects compared to conventional radiation treatment. Proton beam therapy is considered highly effective for tumors in the head, brain, neck, lungs and prostate gland. Researchers first proposed proton radiotherapy in 1946 and by 1954 the first patient had been treated using the new technique. The first hospital-based proton facility opened at the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California in 1990. Since that time, approximately 20 institutions around the world have installed proton therapy systems and have treated more than 50,000 patients. 

One drawback to the current proton beam technology is that the actual equipment requires a large physical space and can cost an estimated $100 million or more to install. The system ticketed for arrival at RWJUH is a new, smaller generation of the proton beam technology developed by Still River Systems. Still River Systems is currently designing the Monarch 250 PBRT System™, which is a practical, cost-efficient, single-room PBRT System scaled for use at most cancer centers. The entire estimated cost of the equipment and construction project at RWJUH is $20 million— significantly less than the cost required to install the first-generation proton beam equipment. To prepare for the proton beam’s arrival, crews were required to dig a hole that covers 5,500 square feet and is nearly four stories deep for the vault that will eventually house the equipment. An estimated 1,133 truck loads were required to remove 25,000 tons of rock from the site. There will be 3,500 square feet of clinical space in the vault area and another 4,500 square feet of clinical space available following the renovation of an existing building on site that will become part of the new treatment center.

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