The VA announced last week that it is partnering with Stanford University to establish America’s first Hadron Center in Palo Alto, CA. The VA’s long-standing relationship with Stanford University’s School of Medicine makes it possible for the VA Palo Alto Health Care System to provide veterans with a wide range of medical services. The new Hadron Center will expand this affiliation by joining forces to focus on particle beam (“hadron”) therapy for veterans and non-veterans with cancer who might benefit from this treatment.
Hadron therapy is the term used to describe radiation therapy using beams made of charged particles such as protons, carbon or other ions. Clinical trials in Japan and Germany have shown that particle beam therapy is more effective than traditional radiation therapy at killing radiation-resistant and deep-seated tumors because it delivers more precise doses of radiation to the tumors with far less damage done to surrounding healthy tissues.
Current radiation therapy for cancer uses x-ray beams (high-energy photons) to target and destroy tumor cells. Radiation oncologists use criss-crossing beams from several angles to irradiate the tumor and try to create as little impact as possible on surrounding healthy tissues. Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent some radiation from being deposited in healthy tissue, creating problems of its own. The use of hadron therapy minimizes the damage done to healthy tissues.
The Hadron Center will be a clinical facility designed to use particle beam therapy to treat cancer patients. Although Hadron therapy is not currently approved by the FDA, once the center is established in Palo Alto, the VA and Stanford Medicine will begin clinical trials to obtain FDA approval as well as researching other possible clinical uses for carbon ion therapy. The Hadron Center will be the first of its kind in the country and will further research in cutting edge cancer treatment.