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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Completes First Phase of Innovative Proton Beam Therapy Center in New Brunswick

(New Brunswick, NJ)- Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) continues to make progress on an ambitious construction project that will bring the first proton beam radiation treatment center of its kind to the New Jersey and New York region. The arrival of proton beam radiation therapy represents a significant advance in the range of cancer treatment options that are currently available to New Jersey and New York residents. 

Leadership from RWJUH, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the City of New Brunswick will tour the proton beam radiation treatment center construction site and mark the completion of the project’s first phase on Thursday, December 18 at 11:30 a.m. The site is located at the intersection of Route 27 (French Street), Louis Street and James Street in New Brunswick. Members of the media are invited to attend. 

Unlike traditional forms of radiation therapy, proton beams can precisely target a cancerous tumor without harming or destroying surrounding tissue and organs with high doses of radiation. It often has fewer or less severe side effects compared to conventional radiation treatment. Proton beam therapy is considered highly effective for tumors in the head, brain, neck, lungs and prostate gland. Researchers first proposed proton radiotherapy in 1946 and by 1954 the first patient had been treated using the new technique. The first hospital-based proton facility opened at the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California in 1990. Since that time, approximately 20 institutions around the world have installed proton therapy systems and have treated more than 50,000 patients. 

One drawback to the current proton beam technology is that the actual equipment requires a large physical space and can cost an estimated $100 million or more to install. The system ticketed for arrival at RWJUH is a new, smaller generation of the proton beam technology developed by Massachusetts-based Still River Systems. Still River Systems is currently designing the Monarch 250 PBRT System™, which is a practical, cost-efficient, single-room PBRT System scaled for use at most cancer centers. The entire estimated cost of the equipment and construction project at RWJUH is $20 million— significantly less than the cost required to install the first-generation proton beam equipment. To prepare for the proton beam’s arrival, crews were required to dig a hole that covers 5,500 square feet and is nearly four stories deep for the vault that will eventually house the equipment. An estimated 1,133 truck loads were required to remove 25,000 tons of rock from the site. There will be 3,500 square feet of clinical space in the vault area and another 4,500 square feet of clinical space available following the renovation of an existing building on site that will become part of the new treatment center. RWJUH expects to complete the project by the end of 2009.