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Four considerations before embarking on a carbon therapy center

From the March 2019 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

By Erik Mollo-Christensen

Carbon, otherwise known as heavy ion or hadron, therapy is the next generation of particle therapy in the U.S.
Originally developed in the U.S. in the 1970s, carbon therapy technology offers higher energy treatment and effectiveness against some tumor types and conditions, as well as shorter treatment courses with fewer fractions and patient visits than proton therapy.

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As part of the continuing development and improvements to cancer treatment, it’s no surprise that healthcare providers are seeking to refine and advance treatment methods in radiation oncology. There are more than 70 operating particle therapy centers worldwide, including 12 international carbon facilities. Another 40 proton and 5 carbon projects are under construction. In addition to these facilities, several premier domestic institutions are considering carbon facilities to bring heavy ion treatment to the U.S.

The primary characteristic and benefit of carbon therapy results from the greater mass of the particles. Proton therapy uses hydrogen atoms, whereas particles from heavier elements (carbon, helium) have more mass and therefore more kinetic energy. This results in greater damage to cancer cells, and — considering the tighter deposition pattern and smaller margins — reduced harm to healthy cells. This also accumulates the prescribed doses in fewer fractions (typically 10-12 for carbon) and decreases the length of the treatment course for the patient.

While carbon therapy presents great opportunities in the fight against cancer, the advanced technology and equipment brings a new level of consideration in site and facility planning for owners contemplating a project. In Stantec’s decades of focused practice guiding planning and design of particle therapy facilities, we have learned that there are several factors healthcare providers must consider when implementing new treatment technology like carbon therapy to ensure the success of a facility.

Generally, there are four key factors to consider prior to exploring the feasibility of a carbon therapy facility. They include:
• Equipment characteristics
• Planning, architecture, and facility design
• Engineering design considerations
• Cost and construction

Equipment characteristics
Before considering the design of a carbon therapy facility, it’s important to understand equipment components and operations, along with the resulting impacts on project planning and design.
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