Proton beam treatment, a relatively new form of particle therapy which uses protons to selectively irradiate tissues, continues to gain acceptance in the cancer care community, but due to the size, expense and safety concerns surrounding existing equipment, only 11 facilities in the country currently offer the treatment. Fortunately, a new generation of smaller, more accurate proton accelerators promise to extend the reach of this potentially life-saving treatment.
The McLaren Health Care Proton Therapy Center in Flint, Mich., designed by RTKL and SmithGroup, in a design/build partnership with Barton Malow/Christman Company, will be the first facility in the world to house a new compact accelerator developed by ProTom International. It will allow the building to be built on a smaller site with reduced operating expenses, and will cost significantly less than a conventional proton therapy center.
The main components of the 40,000-square-foot building will be the proton accelerator and beam transport area, three treatment rooms sized for isocentric gantries, patient support areas, staff offices and technical support facilities. To help reduce stress for patients and families, the high-tech facility has been designed to provide an aesthetically pleasing and friendly atmosphere with a nature-themed interior. Coordinated circulation paths prevent cross-traffic between public and patient areas to further enhance privacy and comfort.
The system also allows for a significant reduction in concrete shielding wall thickness, from 7 or 8 feet in comparable facilities to less than 6 feet. While most proton facilities are located below ground level to use the earth for radiation shielding, the McLaren accelerator and treatment rooms can now be economically placed at grade, increasing patient access.
Currently, building construction is substantially complete, furniture is moving in and the proton accelerator is functioning. The project maintains its original schedule for patient treatment to begin in December 2012. For more information, visit www.rtkl.com or www.mclarenhealthcare.org.