UAMS Breaks Ground On Proton Center, Expanded Radiation Oncology Center

UAMS Breaks Ground On Proton Center, Expanded Radiation Oncology Center
Krakow, Poland, circa May 2016. Proton therapy of eyeball cancer, Bronowice Cyclotron Center, Institute of Nuclear Physics. A patient positioning chair in a treatment room and computer softwere. (Shutterstock)

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences broke ground Tuesday on an expanded Radiation Oncology Center, which will be home to Arkansas’ first Proton Center.

The Radiation Oncology Center, part of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, will move in 2023 to a new 52,249-SF, three-story building facing Capitol Avenue, between Pine and Cedar streets.

But the building is being built primarily to accommodate the proton center Arkansas Business reported on previously. It's one of fewer than 40 such centers nationwide and is opening in partnership with Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health and Proton International.

Proton therapy is an alternative to radiation therapy that uses a precisely focused high-energy beam to target tumors, often in hard to reach areas, without affecting surrounding tissue. It is particularly effective in treating tumors of the brain, spine, head and neck, lung, prostate, colon and some breast tumors, according to the release.

“We are fortunate that UAMS continues to broaden the medical-care horizons in Arkansas,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson in a news release. “High-tech advances such as the Proton Center will provide first-rate care for more people as well as attract even more world-class doctors and researchers as UAMS continues its pursuit of the National Cancer Institute Designation. The partnership of UAMS with Arkansas Children’s, Baptist Health and Proton International ensures that Arkansas will continue to be a place of healing for thousands of cancer patients.”

“UAMS is excited to be able to offer this advanced technology to patients in Arkansas so that they will no longer have to leave the state for this highly effective treatment,” said UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson. “This is part of our continued commitment to improving the health and well-being of Arkansans.”

The closest proton centers to Arkansas are in Memphis and Shreveport, Louisiana.

Dr. Michael Birrer, director of the Cancer Institute, added that the proton center “will be the basis of many new and novel clinical trials that will benefit our patients and move the cancer research field forward. It will also help us on our journey to receive National Cancer Institute Designation.”

The expanded Radiation Oncology Center will feature three new linear accelerators — machines that customize high-energy X-rays — that will provide:

  • Edge radiosurgery, a specialized nonsurgical technique used to destroy tumors in the brain and spine with end-to-end accuracy of less than 1 millimeter;
  • Radiotherapy with motion management, which controls radiation directed at tumors that move as patients breathe; and
  • Adaptive therapy, which allows clinicians to adapt to daily changes in the tumors’ shape and position over the course of treatment to better target the cancer and spare normal tissues.

The first floor of the new building will include a consultation room, a computerized tomography (CT) room, treatment rooms, clinical rooms, an exam area, a staff lounge and a conference room, as well as several physician offices.

The proton machine will be housed on the second floor, as will a CT room to prepare patients for proton therapy, a high-dose radiation (HDR) room, gowning rooms, recovery rooms, an anesthesia room, work rooms, eight exam rooms, a large work room for physics staff and more physician offices.

The third floor will house a cooling room for the proton machine, as well as mechanical and storage areas. It will include additional space for future needs.

An enclosed heated and cooled skywalk will connect the building to UAMS’ Parking Deck 3.