M.D. Anderson Opens New Proton Therapy Center

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A new cancer treatment facility in Houston sounds like something out of science fiction.

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is now using its 125 (M) million dollar Proton Therapy Center.

It's the largest of the nation's four such facilities that treat cancer by narrowly targeting protons on tumors.

Experts say the method spares nearby healthy tissue that's often blasted with traditional X-ray radiation therapy.

The treatment rooms look like the airlock of a science-fiction spaceship.

But behind them are bending magnets, electrical wires and monitors that make up the gantry, encased in a steel barrel, three stories tall and weighing 190 tons.

The protons, which are stripped from the nucleus of hydrogen atoms in a tubular device called an injector, are sent to a compact particle accelerator called a synchrotron.

There they circle around until they gather enough energy to irradiate a tumor before being sent toward the patient.

Doctor James Cox says it's a breakthrough.