Baylor Health Care System and Texas Oncology, the state's largest cancer physicians group, said Friday that they intend to build a radiation treatment facility in North Texas using proton therapy, currently offered in the state only by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Also participating in the project, which could cost $40 million to $50 million, is US Oncology, based in The Woodlands, north of Houston, with which Texas Oncology is affiliated.
A site for the center has not yet been determined, said Dr. Barry Wilcox, chief of radiation oncology for Texas Oncology at Baylor's recently opened Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas. He said it's likely to choose a location in central Dallas-Fort Worth because "we want it close to both airports" to accommodate patients traveling from outside the region.
Only nine proton therapy treatment centers are in operation nationwide, according to the organizers. In their first generation, such facilities cost well over $100 million and covered an area the size of a football field.
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Wilcox said the facility under consideration for North Texas is a second-generation design that is much less expensive and much more compact. Both designs use proton beams to target cancer cells, rather than the X-rays and gamma rays in traditional radiation therapy.
According to the National Cancer Institute, proton beams deliver more energy at the end of their path, the site of the tumor. In contrast, X-rays and gamma rays deliver energy to all tissue in their path, although the beams can be manipulated to concentrate more energy on the tumor.
"A lot of advances have been made" in high-energy radiation therapy, Wilcox said. Proton therapy has particular applications when precise focus is needed, such as when treating tumors near the spinal cord or eyes and when treating children.
The equipment's manufacturer has not yet been chosen. Once that is done, building a proton therapy center takes roughly two years.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552