Penn Medicine to build $45 million proton therapy center

Ioannis Pashakis//October 15, 2019

Penn Medicine to build $45 million proton therapy center

Ioannis Pashakis//October 15, 2019


A rendering of a new Proton Center at Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute expected to be finished in fall of 2021. PHOTO/SUBMITTED 

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health will invest $48 million in a new radiation therapy facility in Lancaster; the second of its kind in the state.

Penn Medicine announced today that it broke ground on a four-story, 8,000-square-foot proton therapy center last month. The new facility, part of LG Health’s Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, will be the Philadelphia based-Penn Medicine’s second Proton Center.

Penn Medicine has offered proton therapy from its Roberts Proton Therapy Center in Philadelphia since 2010. The therapy is used on its own, or alongside other treatments such as immunotherapy and chemotherapy, to tackle various cancers.

Proton therapy differs from traditional X-ray therapy by delivering a higher dose of radiation to a cancerous tumor and less radiation to surrounding tissues. Other forms of radiation treat the cancer cell and other tissue cells the same, said Dr. Randall Oyer, medical director of the Barshinger Cancer Institute.

“Lancaster is really the western front of Penn Medicine and we think we can bring a unique service to the central and western part of the state,” said Oyer. “Proton really expands our cancer institute’s focus on personalized medicine, building on our long standing relationship with people in our community and understanding more about the molecular causes of cancer.”

The Proton Center is scheduled for completion by fall 2021 and is expected to treat 110 patients in its first year, and up to 180 in following years, officials said.

The facility will house the $20 million proton therapy machine, which Oyer said will need more than 800 cement mixers worth of concrete surrounding it to keep stable and the radiation confined to the patient.

More than 30 proton therapy centers are operating in the country and because of its scarcity, many insurance companies do not offer it as an option.

“There are some issues that need to be worked out with insurances,” Oyer said. “Medicare covers proton therapy and we work with private insurers.”

In Philadelphia about 70 percent of patients are covered for proton therapy, but insurers have had almost 10 years to add the therapy to their plans, he said.

The cost of the equipment will also keep treatment more expensive than other therapies, but Oyer said proton therapy reduces visits for radiation therapy and treatment for side effects from radiation damage.