Mayo Clinic to build proton cancer centers in Minnesota, Arizona

Mayo Clinic Tuesday said it would spend about $360 million to build proton beam therapy cancer centers in Arizona and Minnesota.

The non-profit hospital and research group said it will adopt proton beam technology — which can better deliver radiation to cancer cells without harming normal cells — at its three main campuses in Rochester, Minnesota; Phoenix, Arizona; and Jacksonville, Florida.

“This represents a bold move forward for Mayo Clinic,” CEO Dr. John Noseworthy said in a press conference in Phoenix.

Mayo officials hope to open the new 100,000 square foot, three-story cancer centers in late 2014 or early 2015. Each $180 million facility will employ about 130 staff and researchers.


Proton beam therapy differs from regular x-ray-based radiation by allowing doctors to deliver higher doses of energy to tumors in three-dimensional patterns.

With standard x-ray treatments, doctors must bombard the site with a constant amount of radiation in order for it to be effective. Proton technology affords doctors superior control and placement of the beams, which can penetrate deep into the body and release the maximum amount of energy closer to the tumor while limiting exposure of healthy cells.

Proton beams can result in better tumor control, higher survival rates, and fewer side effects, especially for children, said Dr. Robert Foote, chairman of Mayo’s oncology radiation department.

Mayo plans on using an advanced form of proton beam technology called pencil beam scanning, which produces a more narrow beam.

According to the National Association for Proton Therapy, there are nine proton therapy centers in the United States, including Indiana University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Florida. Five more centers are being constructed or in development, the group said. Two centers are on the drawing board in Dayton, Ohio.

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