HU Celebrates the Opening of the World's Largest Proton Therapy Institute
Hampton University, along with the Honorable Gov. Bob McDonnell and hundreds of guests, celebrated the grand opening of the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute (HUPTI), the world’s largest free-standing proton center, on Thursday.
"This is really a marvelous step forward in science and the merger of academia," said McDonnell. McDonnell commented on the "marvelous economic impact" that HUPTI has had and continues to have on the Commonwealth of Virginia. "Two thousand temporary workers while building the center, over tens of millions of dollars pumped into the economy over the last couple of years to get us to today…tens of millions of dollars being pumped into the local economy for restaurants, hotels, shopping and other amenities are things that are going to have a tremendous impact for our community."
HU President William R. Harvey, the visionary behind the project, explained that the journey from concept to opening to treat patients "has been the making of a miracle."
Despite the economy, Harvey raised the $225 million necessary to bring his dream of making proton therapy available to residents in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond to fruition.
"We at Hampton measure our successes by the contributions and services that we provide to our community, our nation, and the world," said Harvey.
"Today is a remarkable and blessed day that we the citizens of Virginia and its children will now have convenient access to proton therapy," said Susan Ralston, founder of the Pediatric Proton Foundation, whose five year old son, Jacob, was stricken with a rare form of cancer that paralyzed him from the waist down, overnight.
"We ultimately traveled over 1,500 miles for him to receive proton therapy." As Jacob ran to the stage to hear his mother speak, the crowd was overcome with emotion. Ralston explained that proton therapy helped save Jacob’s life and gave him back his healthy, active childhood.
HUPTI started seeing prostate cancer patients in August. "This has been an incredible journey," said Ronald Cosman, HUPTI’s first patient. Cosman, a resident of Hampton, Va., said he has grown a passion for proton therapy and for spreading the word about the treatment.
Proton therapy is regarded as the most precise form of cancer treatment available, as it targets and kills tumors with millimeter accuracy, while sparing surrounding healthy tissue, leaving the patient with minimal to no side effects, unlike conventional radiation therapy, which is especially important for growing pediatric patients.
"We have over 100 years of actual clinical proton therapy experience
[at HUPTI]," said Dr. Allan Thornton, MD, radiation oncologist, who has
over 19 years experience in proton therapy having treated patients at Harvard
University (Massachusetts General Hospital) and the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy
Institute (MPRI) in Indiana.
According to Thornton, "the physical characteristics of proton beam delivery allow us to target the tumor and conform the beam with greater avoidance to normal tissue than with conventional x-ray radiation (IMRT/photons)."
HUPTI is expected to treat approximately 2,000 patients per year with prostate, breast, brain, lung, ocular and pediatric cancers. HUPTI’s 200-ton cyclotron originates and spins the protons at 60 percent of the speed of light, sending the resulting beam down a beam line to the treatment room. The actual treatment of protons lasts a mere 60 seconds.
Patients are treated five days a week, from five to ten weeks.
- Sarita Scott