Mayo Clinic expert visits Westmead Health Precinct to talk proton therapy

ANTSO Research Infrastructure senior physicist Dr Dale Prokopovich, Mayo Clinic Division of Medical Physics and director of Particle Therapy Technical Operations Professor Chris Beltran and Westmead Hospital Radiation Oncology staff specialist Dr Verity Ahern.

What do Westmead Hospital and the Mayo Clinic have in common?

Their radiation oncologists have a shared vision to make cutting-edge particle therapy a reality for patients with cancer.  

Professor Chris Beltran, chair of the Division of Medical Physics and director of Particle Therapy Technical Operations at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida, recently visited Westmead Hospital to discuss the revolutionary treatment. 

Proton and carbon ion therapy are a form of particle radiation therapy – a specialised form of radiation treatment using charged particle beams, reducing the amount of radiation on healthy tissues.

Currently, carbon ion treatment is only available in 11 centres in the world.

Organised by Westmead Hospital’s Prof Ahern and Dr Dale Prokopovich, ANSTO’s Research Infrastructure’s senior physicist, it was an opportunity for local radiation oncologists, medical physicists and radiation therapists to learn about the principles of particle therapy and the potential benefits.

Mayo Clinic Division of Medical Physics and director of Particle Therapy Technical Operations, Professor Chris Beltran.

Prof Beltran outlined the Mayo Clinc’s plans to grow proton therapy in the USA.

“Proton therapy treatment was introduced at the Minnesota and Arizona Mayo Clinic sites in 2015,” Prof Beltran said.

“Plans are now underway at the Mayo Clinic’s Florida site, for the construction of a carbon ion facility.

“Once completed, the facility will be the first in North America to offer carbon ion therapy.”  

Westmead Hospital’s Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre’s Radiation Oncology director, Clinical Associate Professor Verity Ahern, is leading the charge to bring proton and carbon ion proton therapy to the Westmead Health Precinct.  

Co-chair of the Westmead Health Precinct National Particle Therapy Steering Committee, Prof Ahern is working with leading clinical experts both nationally and internationally, as well as the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and partner universities.

Professor Ahern said select patients stand to benefit from particle therapy over traditional forms of radiation.

“Proton therapy is particularly beneficial for people with cancers close to vital organs such as the brain, spinal cord or heart, such as lung cancer and head and neck cancers, as well as for children,” Prof Ahern said. 

“This is because less radiation is delivered to surrounding healthy tissue and organs during proton therapy.

“Carbon ion therapy involves the delivery of more energy to a tumour with even less risk to nearby healthy tissue than proton therapy.

“This is especially beneficial for patients with tumours that are resistant to traditional forms of radiation therapy and proton therapy.”

One of the largest health, education, research and training precincts in Australia, the Westmead Health Precinct spans 75 hectares and includes four hospitals, four world-leading medical research institutes, two university campuses and the largest research-intensive pathology service in NSW.

For more information about the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre visit https://www.sydneywestcancer.org/the-crown-princess-mary-cancer-centre/ or for more information about radiation therapy visit https://www.targetingcancer.com.au/about-radiation-oncology/ .