Virtua places 90-ton, cutting-edge medical device at new cancer care facility (SLIDESHOW)

A massive — and revolutionary — piece of medical equipment has found a home next door to Virtua Voorhees Hospital, Virtua Health announced Thursday, where it will provide a new way to provide cancer care for patients across the region.

The 10-foot-wide, 90-ton cyclotron — which required a supersized tractor-trailer and special crane to be installed — accelerates subatomic, cancer-killing particles to 450 million miles per hour at temperatures as cool as -452 degrees, Virtua said. This proton therapy is considered the most advanced radiation treatment available, and will take place at the new facility, a partnership between Penn Medicine and Virtua called the Penn Medicine | Virtua Health Proton Therapy Center.

It is slated to come online in fall 2022, when it will become the first proton therapy center in South Jersey and one of just 42 nationwide.

Facts and figures

  • The cyclotron traveled 4,000 miles by ship from Germany to Port Newark.
  • The tractor-trailer that delivered it from Newark to Voorhees is 101 feet long, and the tractor-trailer, shipping container and cyclotron weighed a combined 300,000 pounds, or 150 tons.
  • The cyclotron’s weight of 90 tons is roughly equal to 55 midsized automobiles.
  • The construction crane that placed the cyclotron weighs 300 tons and can lift up to 600 tons.

— Virtua Health

“This is a thrilling milestone in the creation of this facility, and in Virtua’s ongoing partnership with Penn Medicine,” Stephanie Fendrick, Virtua’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer, said in a prepared statement. “Proton therapy offers new hope for individuals with complex or recurring cancers. With the creation of this center, South Jersey residents will be able to receive this state-of-the-art treatment close to home.”

The new facility is a two-story structure connected to the existing Penn Medicine | Virtua Health radiation oncology suite. The cyclotron will sit in an underground vault with concrete walls ranging from 8 to 21 feet thick. The facility will offer services including evaluation, treatment and access to proton therapy clinical trials.

“Penn has built an international reputation for excellence in cancer treatment, and has trained more than 70% of the clinicians using proton therapy around the world,” Dr. James Metz, Penn Medicine’s chair of radiation oncology, said in a statement. “We’re very excited for the opportunity to share this expertise with our colleagues at Virtua.”

The cyclotron will require a year of precise calibrations before the center can open for patients, Virtua said.

Penn Medicine and Virtua began their collaboration on cancer care in 2015. The Penn Medicine | Virtua Cancer Program has offices in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.

For more information, or to see a video on the cyclotron, click here.