What is Proton Therapy?

Proton Therapy is regarded as one of the most advanced treatments for cancer in the radiotherapy market. It is a precise, non-invasive, non-surgical procedure. Because of its unique characteristics, Proton Therapy allows the clinician to target the cancer cells directly, killing the cells without harming the healthy tissue around the tumour. This results in patients having few to zero side effects and the benefit of a much healthier and higher quality of life after treatment.

Proton Therapy is used to treat many forms of cancer and non-malignant tumours, but is most valuable in the treatment of head and neck, prostate, brain and spinal, lung, gastrointestinal, breast and paediatric cancers.

World wide there are 33 proton facilities in operation, and a further 22 are in a planning stage or under construction (all in the northern hemisphere). As at December 2010, 74,000 patients worldwide have been treated with Proton Therapy.

Proton Therapy uses the protons from hydrogen atoms that are left after the electrons are removed. Either a cyclotron or synchrotron is used to accelerate the protons, then large magnets conduct the protons away from the accelerator and send them through a beam transport system to individual treatment rooms, where they are used to treat tumours.

Patients are immobilised in the treatment rooms, wherein the proton beam is precisely aligned as prescribed by the treatment plan, by either a 360 degree rotational gantry or by inclined or fixed beam lines enabling radiation oncologists to deliver protons with technology such as pencil beam scanning which effectively "paints" the tumour with ionising energy, layer by layer.

The critical difference with protons over X-ray radiotherapy is that the majority of energy is delivered just to the tumour. Treatment planning using specialised software, takes place beforehand, providing information on the position of the tumour.

Proton Therapy Australia

Proton Therapy Australia Pty Ltd (PTA) ACN: 120 664 566

Incorporated July, 2006, PTA is the only company in Australia with approval from Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration to bring proton technology to Australia.

Between 2007 and 2010, PTA secured federal government approvals, prepared a detailed business case, formed links with the New South Wales Government, established an Advisory Board, initiated alliances with Sydney teaching hospitals, and identified the site for the facility. The Planning Phase has begun and subject to full funding, the facility is scheduled to open January 2015.

November 2011 PTA completed first minor capital raising. PTA is advised by individuals selected for their expertise in planning. PTA's Advisory Board.

Click here to view a PDF Document of the Advisory Board.

Australian Facility

Proton Therapy Australia Pty Ltd (PTA) will design, build and operate a proton therapy facility that will change the way cancer care is delivered in Australia.

PTA has entered into contract negotiations for the supply of the equipment, and is well advanced in concept design.

The Facility will be built in inner Sydney, New South Wales, less than 4 kms from the Sydney airport, and within 10 kms of Sydney's most prestigious teaching hospitals.

The total cost of the project is approximately $170M. It will be a turn-key facility, the equipment being purchased from an established proton therapy technology provider. The facility will be a construction of between 2 and 3 levels with a footprint of approximately 3000 square metres. It will comprise 4 treatment rooms, with an additional room for physics and engineering research. The facility will provide the latest in precision diagnostic tools including PET/CT, an essential compliment to precision radiotherapy.

Clinical collaborations with local and international cancer centres will contribute to world-class research by identifying improved ways of using protons in combination with other treatments - such as with chemotherapy and gene therapy.

Patients receiving the highest priority in the first instance will be paediatric patients, patients with central nervous system or head and neck tumours, eye disorders, lung cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Whilst the facility will primarily be for the treatment of cancer, it will also be the first proton accelerator for physics and engineering research in Australia.

The Development of PTA's facility has four phases:

Phase 2

  • Complete capital raising to carry the project through to the Operational Phase.
  • Further develop and finalise the design of the facility.
  • Obtain statutory approval, including development and building approval to enable construction of the facility.
  • Finalise design documentation for construction.
  • Prepare and finalise project delivery with selected consultants and contractors.
  • Enter into contracts for the construction, delivery, installation and maintenance of the equipment.

Phase 3

  • In this phase, the facility will be constructed and the equipment installed and commissioned to commence operations.
  • The Proton Therapy system will be housed in a purpose built building.
  • It is expected that the building will take 10 months before it has reached the stage when the major items of equipment can commence being installed.
  • The construction of the building will be undertaken in close consultation with the proton technology and radiology vendors.
  • The accelerator and gantry will take about 14 months to install after delivery, including extensive commissioning before the first treatment room is operational.

Phase 4

  • When first operational, the facility will have only one treatment room.
  • The second treatment room will be on line within 3 months, the third by 6 months and the fourth by 9 months.
  • The facility will provide an integrated cancer service including diagnostic radiology, the delivery of Proton Therapy and chemotherapy, as well as ancillary clinical services.

The following images are taken from proton therapy sites under construction in the USA, courtesy of IBA.