images of the arrival and installation of the Proton Center's cyclotron at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

Construction of the Proton Center at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute (Cancer Institute) reached an important milestone Jan. 16 with the arrival and installation of a 220-ton cyclotron, which will be used to treat patients with advanced radiation therapy.

Delivery of the cyclotron and related essential components involved a 20-axle, 210-foot-long trailer truck to transport the unit to the Cancer Institute, and multiple heavy-duty cranes to lift and lower it in place.

Weighing as much as a 747 airliner, packed into an 18-foot-wide by 8-foottall space, the cyclotron is the centerpiece of the technology behind proton therapy.

The cyclotron accelerates protons (positively charged atoms) to near-light speeds, creating a beam of high energy that delivers radiation with unprecedented accuracy. The shape, location and depth of the tumor site is first measured by the radiation team. This allows custom-designed proton beams to carefully target and destroy cancerous cells, while reducing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Proton therapy is used to treat cancerous tumors located close to critical organs and highly sensitive areas, such as the spinal cord, heart and brain. It also provides new options for patients whose cancers can’t be completely removed by surgery, or who previously received conventional radiation in the same area.

“As part of Penn Medicine — the world leader in proton therapy — LG Health physicians will integrate proton treatments with other cancer-fighting therapies offered at the Cancer Institute, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and molecularly targeted drugs,” said Kenneth R. Blank, MD, medical director, Radiation Oncology, LG Health. “Precise, individualized treatments allow us to safely and effectively treat cancers with much less side effects.”

Penn Medicine’s groundbreaking Roberts Proton Therapy Center in Philadelphia, which opened in 2010, is the largest in the world for both proton and conventional radiation. The state-of-the-art Proton Center in Lancaster will be Penn Medicine’s second center to offer this treatment. Expected to open by Summer 2022, it will be the first and only proton therapy center in Central Pennsylvania.

“Proton therapy is only available at select centers in America. We are excited to bring this powerful treatment to patients in Lancaster, who will no longer have to travel hours for this expertise,” Blank said.

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