Two renowned health systems are bringing the most advanced form of radiation treatment to cancer patients in South Jersey, with the creation of the Penn Medicine |Virtua Health Proton Therapy Center in Voorhees.
Expected to open in early 2023, the $45 million, 8,600-square-foot facility will be the first proton therapy center in South Jersey and among fewer than 50 in the United States. This suburban site, on the Virtua Voorhees Hospital campus, will provide local patients the added convenience of being nearer to home and loved ones while undergoing treatment and recovery.
The technology involves the acceleration of sub-atomic, cancer-eliminating particles to about 450 million miles per hour. In reality, though, this leading-edge facility will bring a new pathway to care to people with cancer from across the region.
“Proton therapy offers new hope for people with complex or recurring cancers, and we are thrilled to bring this world-class care to our community,” said Stephanie Fendrick, FACHE, MBA, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Virtua Health, southern New Jersey’s largest health system.
“This is also a major milestone in Virtua’s longtime partnership with Penn Medicine, which is a global leader in proton therapy,” added Fendrick.
The Voorhees facility features the newest, most advanced proton therapy system in the world, the ProBeam 360° by Varian.
“We’re very proud to partner with Virtua to deliver this revolutionary treatment to South Jersey residents,” said James Metz, MD, chair of Radiation Oncology at Penn Medicine. “As an international leader in cancer care, we’ve trained more than 70% of the clinicians using proton therapy around the world.”
The new Proton Therapy Center is connected to the existing Penn Medicine |Virtua Health Radiation Oncology suite, and part of the comprehensive Penn Medicine |Virtua Health Cancer Program.
The facility will offer a full range of services, including evaluation, treatment, and access to clinical trials, some involving proton therapy.
A 90-ton device called a cyclotron is the primary component in the delivery of proton therapy. The cyclotron accelerates protons to two-thirds the speed of light – about 450 million miles per hour.
“That creates the high energy needed to deliver targeted radiation to the desired depth in the body,” explained Dr. Metz.
At that speed, protons travel from the cyclotron to the patient in about 60 nanoseconds – or 60 billionths of a second! As part of this process, the cyclotron’s superconducting coils are cooled to 452 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit.
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