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October 15, 2019

Penn Medicine breaks ground in Lancaster on Pa.'s second proton therapy site

The relatively new cancer treatment is currently available at fewer than 30 hospitals around the country

Illness Cancer
Penn Medicine proton therapy lancaster Penn Medicine/Lancaster General Health

Penn Medicine broke ground Tuesday on a new facility in Lancaster, which will be one of just two sites in Pennsylvania to offer proton therapy to cancer patients.

A new cancer treatment facility in Lancaster will be one of just two sites in Pennsylvania to offer proton therapy to cancer patients.

Penn Medicine broke ground Tuesday on the facility, an expansion of its Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute. 

The 8,000-square-foot, four-story building will be the first proton therapy center in Central Pennsylvania. Construction is expected to be completed by the fall 2021.

The project represents a $48 million investment, according to Penn.

Proton therapy, a relatively new type of radiation therapy, often is used to treat cancers as well as benign tumors, according to the Mayo Clinic. Instead of using X-rays, which also touch non-cancer cells, proton beams enter the body at low doses of radiation that spare healthy tissue, according to Penn Medicine.

Clinical trials and studies suggest proton therapy causes fewer side effects than traditional radiation because it enables doctors to target more precise areas.

Proton therapy is an option for a number of cancer types, including brain cancer, spinal tumors, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, gynecological cancers, kidney cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, mesothelioma, oropharyngeal cancer, pediatric cancer, and prostate cancer, according to Penn.

Because it's relatively new, proton therapy availability is limited across the United States. There are currently just 28 active proton therapy centers, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy, with five more, including the Lancaster site, under construction or development.

The Roberts Proton Therapy Center at the University of Pennsylvania Health is the only proton therapy site in Pennsylvania. Since the center opened in Philadelphia in 2010, Penn radiation oncologists have treated more than 6,000 patients using proton therapy.

There are two other proton therapy facilities in New Jersey – the ProCure Proton Treatment Center in Somerset and the Laurie Proton Therapy Center at RWJBarnabas Health in New Brunswick. 

"Current patients who may benefit from proton therapy — especially for hard-to-treat cancers — can only receive this therapy at a handful of specialized centers across the country," Dr. James Metz, chair of radiation oncology at Penn Medicine, said in a release. "This project represents the next phase of proton therapy, further enhancing patients access."

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