Proton beam technology allows Mayo Clinic to offer full complement of cancer treatment in Arizona

Patients will no longer have to travel out of state to get access to the most technologically advanced form of radiation available to fight cancer.

3424015_0069The Mayo Clinic Hospital in northeast Phoenix is poised to open a $180 million facility that will allow patients access to proton radiation, which allows greater control in targeting cancer cells, while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

The apparatus inside the new three-story building adjacent to the hospital is a marvel of medical engineering. The facility’s 100,000 square feet are encased in two-thirds as much concrete as was used to build the entire University of Phoenix football stadium.

More than 16,000 metal shims were used to hand-build the massive circular accelerator, called a “synchotron,” that harnesses the power of magnets to gather and steer particles as they spin and reach successively higher energies, close to the speed of light. The beam, which runs the length of a football field, is concentrated through nozzles that deliver the therapy into four treatment rooms.3424018_0023

But because physicians can regulate the velocity of the protons, radiation can be highly targeted to a pre-determined depth, and can reduce the dose in surrounding tissues by as much as 75 to 99 percent in some cancers, compared to standard radiation therapy, said Dr. Sameer Keole, who leads the proton center.

Delivering more focused doses is important, given lifetime dose limits of radiation and the potential for complications, such as anemia.

3424018_0019Not all conditions are appropriate for the therapy, Dr. Keole said, but with the grand opening in February, patients who could benefit will no longer have to travel out of state since Mayo will now be able to offer the full spectrum of cancer treatment options. The therapy is typically used on spinal and eye tumors, as well as other common cancers. The facility, which employs more than a dozen physicists and 130 staff members, will be used to treat children as well as adults.

Dr. Keole said because Mayo believes in the technology and wants to ensure it is   accessible to patients, the therapy will be offered at comparable cost to conventional radiation therapy. Mayo’s experience with proton therapy at its campus in Rochester, Minn., has determined that most insurance plans cover the therapy.

Tucson Medical Center is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a national network of like-minded organizations committed to better serving patients and their families.

“While it is important for patients to explore all available treatment options with their physician to determine what approach is best for their unique condition,  TMC is delighted that our clinical collaboration with Mayo will help facilitate patient access to this advanced form of radiation technology,” said Dr. Rick Anderson, the chief medical officer for TMC.

The Arizona Daily Star provided coverage on the project. To read more, please visit


Leave a Reply

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
%d bloggers like this: