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Siteman Cancer Center expands proton therapy treatment

Washington University School of Medicine
Workers prepare to unload a piece of Siteman's newest proton beam machine. Workers prepare to unload a piece of Siteman's newest proton beam machine.

Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine is expanding proton therapy for patients by adding the latest, most innovative technology to its S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center with the addition of a second MEVION S250i Proton Therapy System® with HYPERSCAN® pencil beam scanning technology and Adaptive Aperture® pMLC.

This latest installation will replace Siteman’s first proton therapy system, which first treated patients in 2013. The new machine will allow pencil-beam scanning which delivers proton therapy in a single, narrow proton beam aimed directly at the tumor and adjusted for intensity. The beam then “paints” the radiation dose on the tumor.

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Washington University radiation oncologist Dennis Hallahan, the Elizabeth H. and James S. McDonnell III Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, signs a Siteman banner at the site of the newest proton therapy machine.

The project also includes the addition of FLASH proton therapy, a form of therapy in which radiation is delivered at an ultra-high dose rate, typically in under one second. FLASH proton therapy, currently available only for research, is an emerging way to deliver radiation therapy. Research has demonstrated that FLASH delivery may effectively kill cancer cells with less toxicity to normal, healthy tissues in the body. The therapy must receive federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval before it can be used to treat patients.

“It is an exciting time for the Proton Therapy Center,” said Stephanie M. Perkins, MD, director of the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center and an associate professor of radiation oncology and chief of the pediatric radiotherapy service at the School of Medicine. “This new machine provides us the opportunity for additional clinical trials, scientific research, and growth of the proton therapy service for our patients. We look forward to building upon our strengths as leaders and innovators in proton therapy.”

Proton therapy at Siteman includes the expertise of Washington University radiation oncologists, medical physicists and other subspecialists who work with surgeons and medical oncologists – many of whom also are renowned researchers – to provide multidisciplinary, personalized care.

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This note from the Kling Family reads, “In heartfelt honor of, and deep gratitude to the physicians and patients of the Kling Proton Therapy Program.”

By adding a second pencil-beam scanning proton machine, Siteman aims to offer more advanced proton therapy to those patients that need it.

Siteman Cancer Center, ranked the No. 10 cancer treatment center by U.S. News & World Report, also is one of only a few cancer centers to receive the highest rating of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) – “exceptional.” Comprising the cancer research, prevention and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Siteman treats adults at six locations, including an inpatient hospital, and partners with St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the treatment of pediatric patients. Siteman is Missouri’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and the state’s only member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Through the Siteman Cancer Network, Siteman Cancer Center works with regional medical centers to improve the health and well-being of people and communities by expanding access to cancer prevention and control strategies, clinical studies and genomic and genetic testing, all aimed at reducing the burden of cancer.