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Protons centers are on time, on budget

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Work progresses on Mayo Clinic's Richard O. Jacobson Building Friday, December 2, 2011 in downtown Rochester. The building will house the clinic's proton beam therapy center.

Mayo Clinic construction of a new $187.5 million pencil-beam proton therapy cancer treatment center in Rochester, and a second $181.5 million facility on its Arizona campus, is on budget and on time, a clinic spokesman said.

Clinic spokesman Joe Dangor said the Rochester facility is expected to begin treating patients in 2014 or 2015 and be fully open by 2016.

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Mayo feasibility studies have predicted that approximately 1,240 patients per year will come to Rochester for treatment at the facility.

The four pencil-beam cancer treatment rooms, each equipped with machinery that requires two floors of space to rotate to the proper treatment direction, will together be the largest number of such devices at one medical facility in the country.

The only other health facility with that many will be the new Mayo proton facility in Arizona. Mayo is not building a proton therapy center at its Florida campus because there are enough proton offerings available there, officials have said.

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Proton therapy targets cancerous tumors and, ideally, kills them with less harm to surrounding tissues than conventional radiation therapy. Mayo hopes to offer the option for children with tumors because children treated with radiation have a greater potential for secondary cancers related to that treatment later in life.

Adult cancers are also targets of proton therapy. Prostate cancer treatment, for example, can have side effects such as urinary problems and sexual dysfunction. Proton therapy aims to avoid those.

Parents seeking pencil-beam therapy for a child now must travel to a place such as MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Mayo's facility in Rochester is expected to bring the first pencil-beam options to the region.

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The proton therapy building will be named after philanthropist Richard O. Jacobson, a warehouse storage magnate, who donated $100 million to create the new Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program, which Mayo has said is "the largest outright gift in the clinic's history."

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