Massive cancer fighter arrives at Penn

January 29, 2008 6:18:01 PM PST
It weighs as much as a 747 jetliner, and it took a special 19-axle, 200-foot long tractor-trailer just to move it. This morning, the first and only cycoltron in the region arrived in Philadelphia with a warm welcome from the mummers. The cyclotron's journey started in Belgium, and under the cover of darkness it moved to its new home by way of the Schuylkill Expressway overnight.

The cyclotron is the centerpiece of the new Roberts Proton Therapy Center, a first-of-its-kind center for the treatment of cancer at The University of Pennsylvania Hospital. It will be the largest proton therapy center in the world and one of just six in the country.

The cyclotron's job is to accelerate atoms to near light speeds to create a healing beam of energy that can then be targeted to kill cancerous tumors with unprecedented accuracy and without harming nearby healthy tissue or organs.

It took about 5 hours on Tuesday to put the cyclotron into place. The proton therapy program will start treating patients at Penn in 2009.

The cyclotron will treat both adult and children hospital cancer patients. In addition, Penn has started a new partnership with Walter Reed Medical Center so the cyclotron will treat cancer patients in the military and veterans.