By Robert Sanchez
Daily Herald Staff
The first proton therapy center in Illinois is expected to start treating cancer patients months ahead of schedule.
“The original plan was to open in early 2011,” said James Williams, president of the CDH Proton Center, a ProCure Center. “At this stage, we’re anticipating an opening in early November. That’s how quickly it’s been coming together.”
CDH received state approval to build the 60,000-square-foot center in September 2008 – after Northern Illinois University started constructing a similar $160 million facility in West Chicago. But the NIU project has since been stalled by a lack of funding.
Williams said that’s unfortunate, because there are more than 63,000 new patients with cancer in Illinois each year. More than 11,000 of those cases could benefit from proton therapy.
“So there will be many more patients out there wanting treatment that we can’t treat,” said Williams, adding that he believes the area could support four or five centers.
In the meantime, Williams said ProCure already is starting to schedule appointments for its first consultations. “We will be busy day one,” he said.
Williams said that’s because people are excited about the benefits of proton therapy – an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses proton beams to treat a variety of cancers.
Like traditional radiation therapy, proton therapy kills cancer by preventing the cells from growing and dividing. But because the proton beam can be specifically targeted at the tumor, higher, more effective doses can be delivered while causing less damage to healthy tissue.
The types of cancers that can be treated with proton therapy include prostate, colon, head, neck and brain tumors.
“This is a treatment therapy that works,” Williams said. “It’s laser-focused. It does very little collateral damage. It treats areas of cancer that can, many times, not be treated. This is a technology that’s screaming for attention.”
Like the CDH Cancer Center next door, special attention was given to the interior design of the proton center.
For example, patients will spend time before their appointments in a large, bright, airy waiting room, complete with a beverage and snack center and concierge service.
“This is the patients’ building,” Williams said. “And it’s designed in a way that will bring them the comfort and control that is obviously missing in their life as they walk through the door.”
Together, the proton therapy center and the CDH Cancer Center will make up what Williams called “a cancer management campus.”
“It’s got everything a patient would need,” he said.