Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health breaks ground on new proton therapy facility at Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute

LANCASTER COUNTY — The Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute announced Tuesday that it has broken ground on a new state-of-the-art proton therapy facility, becoming the second site in Pennsylvania to offer the innovative radiation therapy to cancer patients.

Construction began in September to add proton therapy to the Cancer Institute’s array of radiation-therapy services. Expected to be completed by Fall 2021, it will be the first and only proton therapy center in Central Pennsylvania, the hospital said in its announcement.

Proton therapy has a few key differences from traditional radiation, which uses X-rays, a form of photon radiation,  the hospital said. With photon radiation, the rays go into the body from one side and come out the other, touching more than just the cancer cells and potentially damaging healthy tissue along the way, according to the hospital.

The proton beam is positively charged and enters the body at a low dose of radiation. When it hits the cancer it’s targeting, the dosage increases. The beam then stops, preventing the radiation from moving through healthy tissue and exiting the other side of the body.

This enables healthy tissue to be spared, while maximizing the chances of attacking cancer cells, according to the hospital.

“Current patients who may benefit from proton therapy – especially for hard-to-treat cancers – can only receive this therapy at a handful of specialized centers across the country,” said Dr. James Metz, Chair, Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine. “This project represents the next phase of proton therapy, further enhancing patients access.”

Proton therapy will be provided in a nearly 8,000-square-foot, four-story building adjacent to the Cancer Institute now under construction. The project represents a $48 million investment in innovative and essential patient care for Lancaster County and surrounding communities.

Proton therapy is perhaps the most advanced treatment for cancer tumors located close to critical organs and highly sensitive areas, such as the spinal cord, heart and brain, according to the hospital’s announcement.

Cancer types that may be an option for proton therapy:

  • Brain cancer and spinal tumors
  • Breast cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer (anal, colon, esophageal, liver, pancreatic, rectal
  • Gynecologic (cervical cancer)
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Mesothelioma
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Pediatric cancer (in conjunction with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
  • Prostate cancer

Proton Therapy is also an important treatment option for cancers that cannot be completely removed by surgery, the hospital said.

Lancaster General Health said the Cancer Institute is also expanding the availability of its general research and clinical trials to patients, offering the chance to try new and effective treatments that could potentially improve their condition, while taking part in vital research that can benefit many future patients.

The Cancer Institute also continues to enhance its personalized medicine services by offering more precision radiation approaches, expanded precision diagnostics, and additional precision treatment and prevention methods, the hospital said.

“The combination goes beyond traditional manners of understanding and responding to disease,” said Randall A. Oyer, MD, Medical Director, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute. “Here, physicians pursue a therapy or treatment protocol based on a patient’s molecular profile, to minimize harmful side effects and to achieve a more successful outcome.”

When it opened in June 2013, part of the Cancer Institute’s vision was to provide a range of services that would offer comprehensive, state-of-the-art compassionate cancer care while minimizing the number of people needing to travel outside Lancaster County for advanced oncology care.

“Today, as part of Penn Medicine, our patients benefit from the collaborative efforts of experts here at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute and at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center—one of the nation’s foremost leaders in cancer research, patient care, and education,” said Jan Bergen, President & CEO, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.

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