Beam Calibration Underway at New Texas Center for Proton Therapy

Publication: DOTmed, National

September 03, 2015

The Texas Center for Proton Therapy, the first proton therapy facility in North Texas, fired up its equipment last month as physicists began the next phase in the massive effort to bring state-of-the-art proton treatment to the Dallas-Fort Worth area: testing.

“We’re doing a small series of physics experiments – literally dozens, if not hundreds, of times, because we’re checking very different energies,” Dr. Andrew K. Lee, the center’s medical director, told Dallas/Fort Worth Healthcare Daily. “We’re checking different field sizes and we’re checking the beam at different angles.”

Dr. Lee launched proton therapy treatment at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center almost nine years ago, treating the facility’s first proton therapy patient in 2006.

The $105 million facility, which broke ground in Las Colinas on May 15, is moving steadily forward on its ambitious schedule. Present plans are to accept its first patients at the end of this year.

The center is a collaboration of Texas Oncology, The US Oncology Network, McKesson Specialty Health, and Baylor Health Enterprises.

The 63,000 square foot Irving-Las Colinas facility contains an advanced fixed beam treatment room, and two isocentric gantry treatment rooms, each with its 30-foot tall, 110-ton machine for positioning the proton beams.

It will also have an onsite laboratory, CT and MR imaging technology, and a team of more than 50 health care professionals, according to a release from The National Association for Proton Therapy. It will be able to treat up to 100 patients a day.

It will also be the only proton facility in Texas that will also use cone beamed computed tomography to aid in treatment precision.

These latest series of tests came after weeks of planning, according to Dr. Chang Chang, the director of physicists. He and his team are testing to ensure that the pencil beam is properly calibrated, to spare patients unneeded radiation exposure. “After a certain depth, you will see the reading becomes zero, just no dose at all,” Chang said. “It’s very, very amazing when you compare that with photon. If you look at photon [radiation therapy], wherever you go, however deep you are, you’re going to get a dose.”

The three treatment rooms at the new facility will be tested hundreds of times before they are finally fully calibrated. The test last month, according to Chang, showed the beam had less than a .1 percent variation over 10 tests.

Chang joined the center from the ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, N.J. He was senior medical physicist there.

At present, the facility has four physicists, plus Chang, which could grow to seven as the workload ramps up after opening.

“Combined in this whole center we have 70 years of experience, for my physicists, it varies from three to seven years each,” Chang noted. “Coming with this much experience in proton is really quite impressive in my mind.“

This story originally appeared in DOTmed, National.