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Proton therapy comes to New York City: behind the scenes at the NYPC

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 08, 2018
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
From the October 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


Entering the building, patients will find themselves in a large waiting room with lots of natural light and simple ornamental decor hanging from the ceiling. Conjoined is another waiting room for pediatric patients and a set of consultation rooms for patient-physician discussions.

Upon being called, the patient can take an elevator to the second floor and head into one of the changing rooms. Personal belongings are stored in lockers across from the changing area and patients continue to either a diagnostic room or one of the center’s four treatment rooms.

In the treatment rooms, patients are laid out on a table under a dome-like sphere, facing upward at the proton beam. What the patient doesn’t see is the three-story delivery system behind the gantry, the installation of which took 18 months to complete. Within it lies the beam line, from which the protons are transferred, with a 70,000 pound magnet curving the beam as it rotates, enabling treatment to be delivered from the bottom of the patient to the sides.

“It’s all done by magnets,” said Allan W. Freeman, the senior vice president of project development for the New York Proton Center. “We have four different treatment rooms. The majority of time is spent positioning the patient and making sure they’re in the right place. Then the actual delivery of protons for the patient is only a couple of minutes.”

Accelerating these protons to two-thirds the speed of light is the cyclotron. Functionality is monitored 24/7 in a control room using software that is also provided by Varian. It also monitors and offers users the ability to make adjustments to a number of cabinets and equipment on the third floor that supply electrical power.

In addition, a mechanical room provides air conditioning and chilled water for the equipment. Systems are equipped with a number of redundancies as backup in case one goes down.

Comprising the third floor is a series of work stations, a staff training room, a lounge area, and a conference room with a view of the entire street outside the front of the center, where everyday life can be seen down below and a medley of restaurants, shops and hardware stores can be found just around the corner.

Being located in the heart of the city is a benefit for physicians from Montefiore, Sloan Kettering and Mount Sinai.

“The building is as centrally located as it could be because their physicians would be going back and forth on a daily basis from the different hospitals, so it actually works out very well for all three partners,” said Freeman. “It’s actually very convenient for patients as well to get to, because you have the highway a block away and a bridge right there.”

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