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Cancer Institute Acquires Photon Therapy Unit

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- One of the world's most advanced cancer treatment options will be installed at the University of Oklahoma's proposed cancer center following the purchase of a photon therapy unit from a Massachusetts company, officials said Thursday.

OU President David Boren announced acquisition of the device while announcing that a fundraising drive launched last year is half way to its goal of raising $90 million in private funds for the OU Cancer Institute, to be located at OU's Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

Public financing for the $200 million institute was authorized in 2005 with passage of a statewide referendum that increased the cigarette tax to raise money for health programs, including a cancer center.

Boren said purchase of the photon therapy unit from Still River Systems of Littleton, Mass., places OU among some of the nation's leading medical schools who have selected the system, including Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Tufts School of Medicine in Boston.

In addition, the new M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Orlando., Fla., has chosen Still River Systems' equipment.

Boren said the device will complement OU's vision of combining "the bench and the bedside" in a comprehensive cancer research, training and treatment institute.

"We are indeed on the verge of greatness as an institution," Boren said. "We said from the very beginning that we are committed to excellence."

The device, called the Clinatron, uses an external beam directed at a specific tumor site to minimize damage to surrounding tissue. It will be used to treat cancer in conjunction with traditional radiation therapy devices and chemotherapy, said Dr. Terrence Herman, chairman of the radiation oncology department at OU.

"The beam delivery system allows the patient to lie safely and comfortably on a robotically controlled platform giving the physician the ability to easily reach and treat any part of the human body," said Marc Buntaine, chief executive officer of Still River Systems.

Mike Samis, chairman of the University Hospitals Authority, said the new photon therapy unit will cost "several million dollars" but declined to give a specific pricetag because it is part of a confidential contract with the manufacturer.

Samis said the device if more effective in treating cancer than other radiation therapy units that cost more.

Boren said the university has placed an option with Still River Systems to purchase a second unit when patient demand warrants it.

"We feel very confident about the need," he said.

Boren said the Cancer Institute will be part of a "critical mass of medicine expertise" at the Health Sciences Center that will also include a proposed Diabetes Center and separate facilities that specialize in the treatment of the heart and eyes.

Construction of the OU Cancer Institute is scheduled to begin in the fall and it is tentatively set to open in 2010.

In November, officials announced plans to build the first private practice proton therapy center in the United States in northwest Oklahoma City.

Seven physicians associated with Radiation Medicine Associates and Radiation Oncology Associates, both of Oklahoma City, are partnering with ProCure Treatment Centers Inc. to build the proposed $95 million center, set to open in 2009.

Similar devices are located in Houston, St. Louis, Boulder, Colo., and Albuquerque, N.M.
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