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ASU plays role in new Mayo Clinic cancer fighting facility

Artist's rendering shows the exterior of the new Mayo Clinic facility
November 19, 2010

Mayo Clinic is bringing a powerful new tool to the fight on cancer with the help of Arizona State University. ASU will provide a steady stream of physicists who will have the opportunity to work with Mayo doctors at a national, three-site cancer center in Arizona, Minnesota and Florida. The national center will feature modulated proton therapy, an advanced cancer treatment method.

As part of the Proton Beam Therapy Program, Mayo is spending $370 million on building two new facilities – one in Arizona and one in Minnesota – employing this form of proton beam therapy.

Modulated proton therapy, based on pencil-beam scanning, is a more precise form of therapy treatment of cancer that allows for greater control over radiation doses, shorter treatment times and fewer side effects. Of the existing U.S. proton therapy centers, few exclusively use pencil-beam scanning.

Pencil-beam scanning uses a narrower beam than a traditional proton beam. Both of the new Mayo facilities will feature the advanced technology.

Plans in Arizona call for building a 100,000 square foot facility to house the proton beam therapy equipment needed for four treatment rooms. The equipment includes a cyclotron and a 100-ton, three-story motorized gantry. Mayo anticipates that the center will employ about 130 staff members, including 13 physicians and nine physicists.

“This adds another important dimension to our comprehensive partnership and collaboration with the Mayo Clinic,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU’s chief research officer. “We expect that the new facilities will allow us to advance research in the broad areas of healthcare, sciences and engineering, especially in particle physics and oncology.”

Panchanathan said that the physicists, engineers and technologists trained at ASU will have the opportunity of working at the world-class facility at the Mayo Clinic. He expects these individuals to become fully integrated with the operation, which in Arizona will be located at Mayo’s Specialty Building on its Phoenix campus. As such, they will advance pencil-beam scanning in the fight against cancer and explore additional uses of the technology.