Maryland Proton Treatment Center treats its first cancer patients

A new proton center may offer cancer patients a more precise beam of radiation.

The Maryland Proton Treatment Center in the works for years has treated its first cancer patients, according to the Unviersity of Maryland School of Medicine, which is operating the new center along with its Department of Radiation Oncology.

The $200 million facility in the university's BioPark in West Baltimore houses a 90-ton cyclotron and is the first center in the eastern United States to offer proton therapy. Officials believe a radiation dose from the new equipment will be more precise, increasing radiation's impact on to tumors while decreasing it to nearby healthy tissue and organs and causing fewer side effects.

The therapy can be used on a wide range of tumors including those in the brain, base of the skull, head and neck, eye, esophagus, liver, breast, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract.

Almost 60 percent of cancer patients get radiation as part of their treatment, which also may include surgery and chemotherapy. University physicians will be determining who may benefit most from the more precise therapy and also will conduct other research at the center, which is affiliated with the university's Marlene and Steward Greenebaum Cancer Center.

When the center is operating at full capacity, expected next year, the center will employ more than 170 doctors, technicians and support staff and treat nearly 2,000 patients annually.

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