The Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center will be the third in the nation to offer a new generation proton beam therapy that will revolutionize treatment of cancer patients who need radiation, it was recently announced by OU President David L. Boren and Mike Samis, chairman of the University Hospitals Authority and Trust.

The patient-friendly Clinitron 250TM by Mevion uses a synchrocyclotron to produce cancer-killing proton "bullets." Older technology produces protons inside huge atomic accelerators costing as much as $120 million, putting them out of reach for most medical centers.

The Clinitron costs a fraction of that price and promises to be even more effective. The new system is expected to allow radiation specialists to deposit a far bigger dose of killing power within the tumor but spare more of the surrounding normal tissues. This should increase tumor control rates while minimizing side effects.

"In my business, when I find a product that's more effective and costs less money, I'm usually happy," said Samis, chairman of M-D Building Products. Samis added that the Authority took an option on a second Clinitron to ensure the cancer institute's "place in line" as demand increases for this equipment.

The Stephenson Cancer Center includes two vaults for proton-generating accelerators and four additional vaults for conventional radiation therapy accelerators.

Terrence Herman, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, said proton therapy provides a new dimension in the treatment of cancer in both adults and children because protons stop with the tumor and don't pass beyond where they might damage normal tissues, as traditional X-ray radiation does.

Herman said proton therapy is especially beneficial in treating children's brain tumors because the growing tissues of children are particularly sensitive to radiation. In adults, the growing availability of proton therapy is leading to its use beyond the brain and spine and into in solid tumors in the lung, head and neck and prostate.

"We said from the very beginning we were committed to excellence, to world-class care and world-class research," Boren said. "This agreement with Mevion underlines our determination to have one of the most outstanding comprehensive cancer centers in the country."

OU Medicine Chat with Dr. Terence Herman, M.D., chair of the Radiation Oncology Department at the OU College of Medicine, explaining Proton Beam Therapy.