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Mercy takes first step in offering proton therapy

With a turn of a shovel, and a blessing, construction began this month to bring proton therapy, a highly specialized, advanced form of radiation therapy to Mercy’s David C. Pratt Cancer Center.

Proton therapy uses high-energy beams of protons to precisely deliver radiation to a tumor, reducing or eliminating unwanted radiation exposure to surrounding, healthy tissue. According to Mercy, there are only 37 proton centers in the United States.

Dignitaries break ground on the new proton therapy center at Mercy Hospital.
Dignitaries break ground on the new proton therapy center at Mercy Hospital. (Source: Mercy Hospital)

“We have been following the technical advancements and clinical application of proton therapy for years,” said Stephen Mackin, Mercy senior vice president and Mercy Hospital St. Louis president. “We decided now is the right time to move ahead because Mercy is committed to advancing patient care, we have top-notch clinical talent, and we have a growing volume of patients whom we know will benefit.”

Proton therapy can potentially be used for many types of cancer among the thousands of patients Mercy treats each year.

“For a long time, proton therapy was limited to pediatric cancer patients and patients with certain brain tumors,” said Dr. Robert Frazier, division chief of radiation oncology at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. “However, today, new clinical data is expanding the use of proton therapy to many different types of cancers – head and neck, lung, breast and prostate cancers along with soft tissue sarcomas or tumors in their bones.”

The size and scope of the proton therapy machine requires a new 17,000-square-foot addition that will be built onto the David C. Pratt Cancer Center. Construction, led by McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., is expected to last 18 months with an opening planned for summer 2022.

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