The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute in Hampton, Virginia, has treated its first cancer patient with protons, one month before its scheduled October 2010 grand opening.
The development of the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute was conceived several years ago by University President William R. Harvey, Ph.D. He wanted the University to play a key role in narrowing the racial disparity in cancer care in the United States. Indeed, according to findings published in the journal Cancer, there were clear racial differences in cancer treatment in the United States. Researchers examined the cancer treatment of more than 143,000 Americans over age 65 from 1992 to 2002: whether being treated for lung, breast, colon, rectal or prostate cancer, black patients were consistently less likely than white patients to receive recommended procedures, the study found. Moreover, the disparity in cancer incidence rates between Black and White people was greater in Virginia (as certain types of cancer rather affect Black people, and Virginia lists a higher rate of Black people than in the rest of the country), but the new technology brought into the state was not duplicated anywhere in Virginia
Harvey was thus determined to help bridge the cancer care gap, at least in the mid-Atlantic states, the area from which the majority of patients are likely to be drawn, and convinced that developing a proton therapy center at the 140-year-old historically black college will help attain this objective, and in October 2007, the Hampton University joined the fight against cancer. Harvey declared: “Our proton therapy center will provide all our citizens — black and white, young and old, men and women — with another modality to fight cancer. It represents a revolution in science and cancer treatment”.
In November 2010, the Center opened and treated its first patient. The 64-year-old prostate cancer patient had been scheduled to have his prostate surgically removed in January 2010. But a friend suggested he consider “this proton institute thing.” Surprised it had been overlooked by his physician, the patient cancelled the surgery and sought out the oncologists at the Hampton proton center.
With four gantry rooms, one inclined-beam room, the latest options for patient positioning and nozzle technologies and en expected throughput of 125 patients treated a day, Hampton is the eighth proton therapy center to open in the U.S. It will focus primarily on prostate cancer, but also on treating patients with breast, lung, eye and pediatric cancers.