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First Proton Therapy Center Opens in Little Rock

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The first proton therapy center in Arkansas — and only the 43rd in the nation — opened Wednesday at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

The Proton Center of Arkansas, a partnership among UAMS, Arkansas Children’s and Baptist Health, is housed in the new three-story, $65 million UAMS Radiation Oncology Center, which opened in July at 3900 W. Capitol Ave. in Little Rock.

The Proton Center occupies 9,000 SF on the second floor of the 58,000-SF Radiation Oncology Center and includes the proton treatment room, a high-dose radiation room, recovery rooms, an anesthesia room, eight exam rooms, a family area for pediatric patients, and a physician work room.

“What started more than three years ago with a shared vision to bring the most advanced cancer therapy to Arkansas is finally here,” UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said. “It’s a proud day for UAMS and for health care in Arkansas as we join a small, elite group of states that offer this groundbreaking therapy for children and adults with cancer.”

Proton therapy is a form of radiation that uses positively charged proton particles to destroy tumors, often in hard-to-reach areas, with greater precision and less damage to healthy organs and tissues.

UAMS said that patients who receive proton therapy have less severe and fewer side effects than conventional X-ray radiation, which improves recovery time and quality of life.

UAMS joined with Children’s, Baptist and Proton International LLC to build the center, aiming to help Arkansas patients who would otherwise have to travel outside the state for the treatment.

“From opening the UAMS Baptist Health Cancer Clinic and Infusion Center to Arkansas’ first proton center, this is another example of how strategic collaboration with other leading health care providers can improve the health of Arkansans,” Baptist Health President and CEO Troy Wells said.

Proton therapy is used to treat a range of cancers in children and adults, including brain, spine, breast, esophageal, head and neck, liver, lung, lymphomas, eye, pancreatic and sarcomas. According to UAMS, it is the preferred treatment for children who face risks from unnecessary radiation exposure that adults do not.

“This is an exciting day for advancing child health in Arkansas,” Arkansas Children’s President and CEO Marcy Doderer said. “Through this partnership, the children we serve will now have access to this specialized treatment close to home.”

UAMS is the only provider of radiation therapy for children in Arkansas. It broke ground on the Radiation Oncology Center in May 2021. The proton center includes a 55-ton cyclotron — a particle accelerator that powers the proton beam.

The center is equipped to deliver proton therapy to as many as 40 patients per day. Treatments typically take 30 minutes.

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