St. Jude’s new center puts Tennessee on the proton therapy map

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With this week’s opening of a brand new proton therapy treatment center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee becomes one of just five states with two proton therapy centers.

There are now 19 proton therapy centers nationwide.

The $90 million St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center has three treatment rooms where children are already receiving proton therapy. St. Jude aims to treat 100 children at the facility by the end of next year.

“Proton therapy is an evolution in delivery of focused radiation therapy that allows us to deliver the highest possible dose to tumors while limiting damage to surrounding tissue,” said Thomas Merchant, chair of St. Jude’s department of radiation oncology. St. Jude is the first children’s hospital to establish a proton therapy center.

For Provision, which also treats pediatric patients with proton therapy at its center in Knoxville, St. Jude’s adoption of the up-and-coming medical technology is an important part of making it more widely known and available to patients who need it, says Scott Warwick, vice president of program development and strategic initiatives for Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

“With St. Jude’s entry into proton therapy, Tennessee has become a center for quality cancer care for children and adults,” Warwick said. “And in a couple of years, when the Scott Hamilton Proton Therapy Center in Franklin, Tenn., proton therapy will be readily available to every resident of Tennessee as well as those in surrounding communities. Our state has become a model for expansion of proton therapy around the world.”

Scott Hamilton, whose growth as a child was hampered by a later-discovered brain tumor, has become an advocate for cancer patients as well as proton therapy. The Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation is developing the new Middle Tennessee Center in partnership with Provision.

“I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for the patients at St. Jude,” Hamilton says. “Onward and upward!”