Proton Therapy Holds Big Promises for UCSD Med Center

    On July 16, The U.S. News and World Report hit newsstands with its
    annual “Best Hospitals” issue. The Moores Cancer Center, along with
    five other specialty centers at UCSD Medical Center, ranked as one of
    the best medical facilities in the country — and with its advanced
    treatment for patients and continually groundbreaking reseaSTUDENT CENTERS AND HEALTH — On July 16, The U.S. News and World Report
    hit newsstands with its annual “Best Hospitals” issue. The Moores
    Cancer Center, along with five other specialty centers at UCSD Medical
    Center, ranked as one of the best medical facilities in the country —
    and with its advanced treatment for patients and continually
    groundbreaking research, it’s easy to see why.
    Recently,
    the Moores Center has been making plans that will likely boost its
    position even farther up the ranks as one of the best cancer treatment
    centers in the nation, as the UCSD Medical Center is making plans to
    establish a center for proton and particle therapy to treat their
    future cancer patients. Unfortunately, the estimated cost of building
    such a facility isn’t cheap. Including technology costs, the price tag
    for a proton therapy center typically exceeds $125 million, which
    raises issues as to whether the endeavor would be a good use of
    university funds.
    Currently, UCSD is developing a model for a collaborative venture with
    private parties who would help finance and construct the new cancer
    center building, which, when completed, is planned to include
    additional floors of laboratory space devoted to cancer research.
    So, would spending such a great deal of money on this innovative cancer
    technology be a valuable investment for UCSD Medical Center? Judging
    from recent reports on proton therapy, having such technology available
    at the Medical Center would be incredibly beneficial for UCSD and its
    potential patients seeking cancer treatment as well.
    Proton therapy, for those unfamiliar with the process, is a type of
    external beam radiotherapy in which positively-charged particles from
    atoms are directed at lesions and tumors, strategically destroying
    cancerous cells. Typically, surgery or a different type of
    radiotherapy, called x-ray therapy, is used to treat cancer patients;
    however, proton therapy has a greater advantage in effectively treating
    cancer in comparison to these typical methods.
    Having proton therapy available as a potentially safer and more precise
    cancer treatment would likely attract many patients seeking an
    alternative to conventional cancer treatments and therapies. The main
    advantage of proton therapy over surgery and x-ray radiation therapy is
    that protons have a less harmful impact on tissue surrounding tumors,
    while still destroying cancer on a microscopic level. Unlike x-rays,
    protons deposit a substantially smaller amount of energy into the body,
    specifically targeting cancerous tumors and avoiding extensive
    radioactive damage to healthy cells in the body. In this way, proton
    therapy can reduce complications and improve the quality of life for
    patients who undergo this treatment.
    According to UCSD researchers, proton therapy is especially effective
    in treating cancers of the eye, brain, head, neck, lung and prostate.
    Specifically, proton therapy has been gaining a reputation in the field
    of pediatrics, which the cancer center plans to specialize in, if it is
    approved. Children can benefit significantly from proton therapy
    because the lower radiation dosage to healthy tissues is significantly
    reduced in children, also scaling back adverse effects on growth and
    development, a typical side-affect of other cancer treatments.
    Of course, this good news for cancer patients also benefits the Moores
    Center and the UCSD Medical Center as a whole. If the Medical Center
    completes its plans for proton therapy facilities, UCSD Medical Center
    would be at the forefront of this innovative cancer treatment
    technology. Only a handful of today’s hospitals throughout the world
    offer proton treatment, though it is rapidly gaining popularity.
    Since the center will be a facility for both cancer treatment and
    research, focusing on state-of-the-art treatment as well as the
    development of novel approaches to improving the cutting-edge therapy,
    it would become a major resource for scientists, engineers and
    biomedical researchers within the campus community. The research
    program would additionally include the investigation of therapeutic
    application of other particles with similar properties, making the
    facility unique from any other proton therapy center in the country.
    Having such a facility would also benefit UCSD Medical School by
    drawing in students who are interested in the innovative techniques
    that the Moores Center will be using and researching. Therefore, in
    addition to having more resources available for current scientists and
    engineers, UCSD would be making a tremendous investment to attract
    future students and researchers — thereby making the $125 million money
    well spent.
    Currently, UCSD is reviewing information from potential partners to
    develop a request for proposals, and over the next few months program
    officials hope to create and submit the project for approval by the UC
    Regents. If this project is approved, it could lead to great strides,
    not only for UCSD Medical Center, but, more importantly, for cancer
    patients and researchers worldwide.rch, it’s
    easy to see why.

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