Proton therapy centers carry hope for cancer patients to N. Texas




Posted on September 7, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 7 at 7:47 PM

DALLAS -- Only cancer could test the strength of a rugged rancher like Gene Adams.

"It was tough," Adams said. "It was really, really tough."

Adams has battled both colon and prostate cancer. Proton therapy could have cut his radiation time for prostate cancer from seven weeks to two, if it had been available.

Protons are a controlled beam of particles, programmed to peak precisely, "Which allows the highest energy to be used on the target, which is the tumor," explained Texas Oncology radiation oncologist Dr. Scott Cheek. "It minimizes the dose of radiation that the surrounding critical structures get."

Cheek said the big advantage is fewer side effects.

Texas Oncology, along with McKesson Specialty Health and Baylor Health Enterprises, are building a proton therapy center, located on Royal Lane in Las Colinas. The $100 million center will be strategically located between Love Field and D/FW International Airport, for the convenience of incoming patients.

UT Southwestern plans a facility twice the size -- and more than twice the cost -- near Children's Medical Center.

Proton therapy has been proven especially effective for children with brain cancer, men with prostate cancer, and some others.

"We're expecting a lot of the rare tumors around the eyes, spinal chord, re-treatments, some brain and head/neck patients to be sent and treated here," Dr. Cheek said.

Standard radiation worked well for Gene Adams. But with proton therapy, he could've had more time for the important things in life.

"I'd have probably messed with my horses some more," Adams said. "Or with her," he adds with a laugh, pointing to his wife of 48 years.

Right now the closest proton therapy centers to North Texas are in Oklahoma City and Houston. The North Texas facilities aren't set to open for three-to-five years.