The Penn Medicine | Virtua Health Proton Therapy Center – a much-anticipated, high-tech facility offering the most advanced form of radiation treatment for cancer – will welcome its first patients Tuesday.
The facility, located in Voorhees, is the first of its kind in South Jersey and one of only about 50 such facilities in the U.S.
The $45 million facility, located on the Virtua Voorhees Hospital campus, provides local patients the added convenience of being nearer to home and loved ones while undergoing treatment and recovery. The 8,600-square-foot center took nearly three years to build, including months of equipment testing and calibration.
The center is the latest development in the longtime partnership between Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health care system, and Penn Medicine, a renowned academic medical center based in Philadelphia.
Dr. James Metz, chair of radiation oncology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said the center will have great impact.
“Proton therapy allows us to target cancer with pin-point precision that reduces the risk of side effects by avoiding damage to the surrounding, healthy tissue,” he said. “We’re excited to work with Virtua to bring proton therapy into the community, allowing more patients to access advanced cancer care closer to home.”
Proton therapy can be used for many cancer types, including those in highly sensitive areas such as the heart, brain and spinal cord – and in cancers that cannot be completely removed by surgery. At the core of the proton therapy center is a 90-ton underground cyclotron, which accelerates sub-atomic particles to about 450 million miles per hour. This allows clinicians to deposit the protons deep into a patient’s tissue and treat a tumor spot-by-spot while sparing the healthy tissue nearby.
About the Penn Medicine/Virtua Health Cancer Program
Penn Medicine and Virtua Health began their collaboration in 2015, providing South Jersey residents with access to comprehensive care closer to home from teams of Penn and Virtua clinicians. The partnership includes both cancer and neuroscience services. The new Proton Therapy Center is part of the Penn Medicine/Virtua Health Cancer Program, which provides a full range of state-of-the-art cancer services in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.
The new proton therapy center in Voorhees is connected to the existing Penn Medicine |Virtua Health Radiation Oncology suite, and part of the comprehensive Penn Medicine |Virtua Health Cancer Program.
The facility offers a full range of services, including evaluation, treatment, and access to clinical trials, some involving proton therapy.
Stephanie Fendrick, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Virtua Health, said she sees the proton therapy center as a source of hope.
“We want every patient to know they have a care team that will guide and support them every step of the way,” she said.