Scripps Health & Rady Children's Team Up on Proton Therapy

Collaboration will bring new weapon to the fight against childhood cancers

Scripps Health and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego today announced they will team up to provide advanced proton treatment at Scripps Proton Therapy Center to pediatric cancer patients who need this highly accurate form of therapy.

According to the center’s medical director, Dr. Carl J. Rossi, Jr., proton therapy is generally preferable to conventional X-ray radiation for pediatric patients. “X-ray radiation continues to play a vital role in treating childhood cancers, but its long-term side effects can be devastating, as growing organs are highly sensitive to radiation,” Rossi said. “Long-term effects can include growth and hormonal deficiencies and the risk of secondary cancers later in life.”

In contrast, the accuracy of proton beams are ideal for pediatric patients and have been successfully used with children for more than 20 years.

“Proton beams allow for significant sparing of normal tissue compared to X-ray therapy and their use has been shown to greatly reduce the incidence of long-term complications in children,” Rossi said.

For certain cancers, proton therapy offers a more precise and aggressive approach to destroying cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, compared to X-ray radiation. Proton therapy involves the use of a controlled beam of protons to target tumors with control and precision unavailable in other radiation therapies. The targeted delivery of proton energy limits damage to healthy surrounding tissue and allows for a more potent and effective dose of radiation to be used.

“Scripps Proton Therapy Center will be a community resource that will bring together patients, physicians and researchers in the fight against cancer,” said Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder. “We’re particularly pleased to make this sophisticated technology available to the children of our community and their outstanding physicians at Rady Children’s.”

Currently under construction in Mira Mesa, the Scripps Proton Therapy Center is a $220 million cancer treatment and research facility that is expected to open in spring 2013. The 102,000-square-foot facility – which will be just the second such center west of the Rockies – will have the maximum capacity to treat approximately 2,400 adult and pediatric patients annually.

“A cancer diagnosis is devastating to any parent,” said Kathleen Sellick, Rady Children’s President and CEO. “Rady Children’s is thrilled that children will have access to this highly specialized form of therapy right here in San Diego.”

Scripps and Rady Children’s will collaborate on treatment planning for pediatric patients and will work together to design child-specific amenities to enhance the pediatric patient care experience.

A non-invasive treatment, proton beam therapy is also considered highly effective for adults who have solid, deep-seated tumors that are localized and have not spread to distant areas of the body.

Scripps Clinic Medical Group will oversee medical services at Scripps Proton Therapy Center, and Scripps Health will provide its clinical management services. The facility is being developed by Advanced Particle Therapy (APT), LLC, of San Diego. APT has arranged the financing to build the center and purchase the proton therapy equipment from Varian Medical Systems. Additionally, APT will manage and maintain the building and equipment. The facility is being built on a 7-acre site at 9730 Summers Ridge Road.

Scripps Proton Therapy Center will include five treatment rooms; MRI, CT and PET/CT imaging services in support of proton therapy; 16 patient exam rooms; and offices for 14 physicians.

With proton therapy, patients typically receive approximately 30 treatments during a four- to six-week period. Each treatment lasts for approximately 15 to 25 minutes, after which the patient is free to carry on with daily activities.

There are currently nine proton therapy patient treatment centers operating in the United States. They are located in Loma Linda, Calif. (opened 1991); Boston, Mass. (opened 2002); Bloomington, Ind. (opened 2004); Houston, Texas (opened 2006); Jacksonville, Fla. (opened 2006); Oklahoma City, Okla. (opened 2009); Philadelphia, Penn. (opened 2010); Hampton, Va. (opened 2010); and Warrenville, Ill. (opened 2010).

Installation of the center’s superconducting cyclotron – the technological driving force behind the facility – began in October 2011. Later this year, the beam transport system and other equipment will be installed in patient treatment rooms. Meanwhile, the cyclotron will undergo testing to meet various acceptance criteria under the guidance of a team of engineers, physicists, software engineers and other experts.

In addition to providing patient care, Scripps expects to be at the forefront of new and developing clinical applications as part of its proton practice and connection with other national centers.

Radiation generated by the proton therapy system will be contained by installing the equipment in a bunker with concrete up to 15 feet thick. Two completely independent monitoring systems are also being installed to ensure safe operation. A personnel protection system (PPS) will monitor the safety of individuals inside the facility. Additional radiation monitors are being installed outside the facility to prevent environmental exposure.

With more than 300 affiliated physicians, Scripps Cancer Center is a nationally recognized leader in cancer care, providing comprehensive care at its four hospitals and various Scripps Clinic locations. Scripps Cancer Center seeks to provide the best possible treatment and cutting-edge research trials for patients by coordinating medical expertise in the areas of clinical cancer care, community outreach and clinical, translational and basic research. Scripps is the only cancer care provider in San Diego to earn network accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. Scripps has also earned accreditation in radiation therapy from the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) and the American College of Radiology (ACR).

Media Contact

Stephen Carpowich
858-678-7183
carpowich.stephen@scrippshealth.org