by Gus Iversen
, Editor in Chief | January 15, 2016
With almost a decade of treatments under its belt, the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute (UFHPTI) will be undertaking a $39 million expansion to increase the number of cancer patients and indications it can treat.
While the installed technology will be upgraded, the centerpiece of the renovations will be the addition of a single-room compact treatment system, which is expected to increase patient capacity by 25 percent.
Currently, the 98,000-square-foot facility treats approximately 100 patients per day using four treatment rooms - three equipped with rotating gantries and one fixed-beam room - all powered by one cyclotron. Over the duration of a year that adds up to roughly 750 to 800 completed treatment courses.
When the project is completed, UFHPTI will have one of the most versatile proton therapy systems in the world, according to Stuart L. Klein, MHA, executive director of the institute. "Each delivery technique - double scattering, uniform scanning and pencil beam scanning - will enable physicians to use the optimal treatment delivery customized for each patient," he said.
For the first phase of the project — which is expected to be finished this summer — the current system is being upgraded. Rolling floors under the treatment tables in two of the gantries, a new imaging system and a new treatment planning system will all be installed. These improvements are being funded in part by a $5.8 million budget allocation by the Florida Legislature.
The second phase will involve the expansion, construction and installation of the new compact system.
In a January 13 email, Klein told HCB News that the choice of manufacturer for the compact system was still being negotiated and the manufacturer of their multi-room system (IBA) was one of two finalists.
The decision to expand, according to Klein, was based on putting UFHPTI in a position to meet projected future demand. In addition, it will "enable us to treat a few new disease sites including esophageal cancer, additional head and neck cases and additional pediatric cases," he added.
Medical tourism is another incentive to keep the facility at the technological cutting edge. According to a report in the Jacksonville Business Journal
, it is the main provider of proton therapy for patients from the UK, the exclusive provider for patients from Norway and Quebec, and has also treated patients from 49 states within the U.S.
Over the course of their treatments, those patients generate roughly $6,000 in economic impact for the city of Jacksonville.
A final, third, phase of the project will involve retrofitting one of the existing treatment gantries with a dedicated pencil beam scanning nozzle. Pencil beam scanning is a particularly advanced form of proton therapy with which back and forth strokes of the beam are calibrated to the exact shape, size and depth of the tumor, or treatment area.
The entire project is expected to take roughly three years.