SEATTLE, Aug. 1, 2007 – The Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) has taken the first major step toward acquiring a powerful, cost-effective proton therapy delivery system designed to aid patients who need highly targeted radiation therapy. Swedish is now beginning to speak with local medical providers and other organizations that may be interested in partnering to employ this revolutionary technology.
SCI executives announced today that they have signed a contract to buy the latest generation of proton beam radiotherapy equipment, known as the Clinatron 250™, from Still River Systems of Littleton, Mass. Swedish will be the first center in the Pacific Northwest to offer proton beam radiation therapy (PBRT). The proton facility will cost approximately $22 million, compared to the up to $140 million other hospitals have spent in the past on conventional PBRT installations.
“We want this to be a true community resource,” said Swedish Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Cal Knight. “Swedish has long partnered with suburban Seattle hospitals on radiation therapy services and it makes sense to continue that tradition. There is no need for multiple institutions to invest in duplicate medical technology if we can share it effectively for the benefit of all patients in the Pacific Northwest.”
In fact, initial discussions with other area hospitals have resulted in interest around the technology and concept. “The idea of making this leading-edge technology available to patients from throughout the region via a partnership is a win-win,” said Dave Brooks, chief operating officer of Providence Everett Medical Center. “As a leader in oncology care via the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, we agree that this could be an exciting collaborative project and is one we’re considering because of our commitment to continuously provide Snohomish County patients access to the most advanced care available.”
Proton beams differ from conventional X-ray devices because proton particles come to rest after the delivery of a radiation dose to the patient’s tumor. As a result, it is possible to provide unprecedented sparing of normal tissues that otherwise would be in the path of the radiation beam. Proton beam radiation therapy is ideally suited for tumors in close proximity to critical structures. Protons are currently used in treating cancers of the prostate, eye, brain, head and neck, spine, breast, and esophagus. Because proton treatments are able to minimize long-lasting tissue damage, the therapy has also proven particularly effective in the treatment of pediatric patients.
“With protons it’s possible to precisely concentrate the radiation damage inside the tumor so radiation oncologists can use higher, more effective doses,” said Albert B. Einstein Jr., M.D., executive director of the Swedish Cancer Institute. “Proton beam radiation therapy will be an ideal complement to the array of other cancer-fighting tools already available to area residents.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, PBRT is available at only a few facilities in the United States. In fact, only about 20 proton therapy centers have opened around the world.
“The availability of proton therapy here in the Puget Sound will eliminate the need for patients to travel outside of our region to access this innovative therapy,” said Todd Barnett, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology at the Swedish Cancer Institute.
The benefits of proton therapy have gone largely unrealized due to the high cost of building a proton facility, typically in excess of $100 million. Still River Systems, however, has been able to dramatically reduce the cost of PBRT technology and allow a system to fit in a much smaller space by applying new concepts with super-cooled magnets developed in collaboration with scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science Fusion Center. Previous generations of PBRT required a dedicated facility of at least 55,000 square feet, while the Clinatron 250 requires less than 2,700 square feet of space.
“We are dedicated to increasing the availability of proton beam radiation therapy to patients all over the world and we’re very pleased that the Swedish Cancer Institute has committed to helping make this technology available to patients in the Pacific Northwest,” said Kenneth Gall, Ph.D., Still River Systems’ founder and chief technology officer.
Still River Systems is working toward obtaining marketing clearance for the Clinatron 250 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is hoping to receive approval and open the first unit in fall 2008.
Target date for the first patient treatments using this Seattle partnership proton beam radiation therapy system is December 2010 and Dr. Einstein estimates that at least 200 patients will be treated by PBRT each year.
About the Swedish Cancer Institute
In 1932, Swedish opened the first cancer-care center west of the Mississippi. Today, 75 years later, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) has grown into the Northwest’s largest cancer-care program, offering patients the most extensive range of services and expertise in the region. SCI includes leading cancer specialists, a broad range of treatment options, as well as state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. SCI patients benefit from an integrated approach to care, which takes into account not only a person’s physical well-being, but their emotional and spiritual needs, too. The Institute has a presence on all three of Swedish’s hospital campuses – First Hill, Cherry Hill and Ballard – as well as in East King County via a new oncology/hematology clinic with offices in Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah. SCI offers a wide range of advanced cancer-treatment options in chemotherapy, radiation therapy (via the Center for Advanced Targeted Radiation Therapies) and surgery – backed by extensive diagnostic capabilities, patient education and support-group services. SCI’s clinical-research arm encompasses industry-sponsored and cooperative group therapeutic trials, cancer screening and prevention trials, and investigator-initiated trials. Breast-cancer screening and diagnostics are available through the Swedish Breast Care Centers and mobile mammography units. The Institute’s radiation-therapy services are also offered at other Puget Sound-area hospitals including Stevens Hospital in Edmonds, Valley Medical Center in Renton, Highline Medical Center in Burien, and Northwest Hospital & Medical Center in north Seattle. For more information, visit www.swedish.org
About the SCI’s Center for Advanced Targeted Radiation Therapies
The Swedish Cancer Institute’s Center for Advanced Targeted Radiation Therapies encompasses the comprehensive and complimentary array of advanced and emerging radiation delivery tools available to patients for both approved therapies and clinical research efforts. They include a variety of technologies, including Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), linear accelerator-based stereotactic radio surgery, Calypso® 4D Localization System, Xoft Axxent™ Electronic Brachytherapy System, MammoSite® Radiation Therapy System, Seattle CyberKnife Center™ at Swedish, and Northwest Hospital Gamma Knife Center.
About Still River Systems
Still River Systems is dedicated to providing a proton beam radiotherapy (PBRT) system for use by physicians and their patients at any cancer center in the world. PBRT is widely regarded as the optimal radiation treatment for a wide variety of cancers. There is an urgent need to expand the availability of PBRT beyond the limited number of large institutions able to afford the high cost of existing systems. By using state of the art engineering techniques and materials, Still River Systems is developing a high quality, compact, cost-effective PBRT system called the Clinatron 250. Still River Systems is a closely held private company located in Littleton, Mass. near Boston. For more information, visit www.StillRiverSystems.com
- To read a related article posted on the Washington CEO magazine Web site on Aug. 2, 2007, click here.
- To read a related article posted on the Puget Sound Business Journal Web site on Aug. 3, 2007, click here.