South Jersey's First Proton Therapy Center Opens to Patients
The Penn Medicine | Virtua Health facility provides a leading-edge form of cancer treatment. It’s among about 50 nationwide.
April 3, 2023 - A much-anticipated, high-tech facility offering the most advanced form of radiation treatment for cancer will welcome its first patients on Tuesday, April 4.
Located in Voorhees, N.J., the Penn Medicine | Virtua Health Proton Therapy Center – the first of its kind in South Jersey – is one of only about 50 such facilities in the United States.
The center is the latest development in the longtime partnership between Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health care system, and Penn Medicine, a renowned academic medical center based in Philadelphia.
The $45 million facility, located on the Virtua Voorhees Hospital campus, provides local patients the added convenience of being nearer to home and loved ones while undergoing treatment and recovery. The 8,600-square-foot center took nearly three years to build, including months of equipment testing and calibration.
“Proton therapy allows us to target cancer with pin-point precision that reduces the risk of side effects by avoiding damage to the surrounding, healthy tissue,” said James Metz, MD, chair of Radiation Oncology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We’re excited to work with Virtua to bring proton therapy into the community, allowing more patients to access advanced cancer care closer to home.”
Proton therapy can be used for many cancer types, including those in highly sensitive areas like the heart, brain, and spinal cord, and cancers that cannot be completely removed by surgery. At the core of the proton therapy center is a 90-ton underground cyclotron, which accelerates sub-atomic particles to about 450 million miles per hour. This allows clinicians to deposit the protons deep into a patient’s tissue, and treat a tumor spot-by-spot while sparing the healthy tissue nearby.
Voorhees resident Deb Harris is one of the many people excited to welcome proton therapy to South Jersey. Harris has been cancer-free for more than five years after receiving life-saving treatment for a brain tumor at Penn Medicine’s Roberts Proton Therapy Center.
“Cancer treatment is physically and emotionally taxing, and it requires commitment,” Harris said. “My friends and family drove me from Voorhees to Philadelphia—and back—five days a week for six weeks [to receive proton therapy]. It makes me happy to know that, starting now, the people of South Jersey will have a more convenient option should they need similar care.”
Whether reflecting upon her 2022 trip to Cyprus or planning a May 2023 visit to the Kentucky Derby, she says “proton therapy made it all possible.”
The new proton therapy center in Voorhees is connected to the existing Penn Medicine |Virtua Health Radiation Oncology suite, and part of the comprehensive Penn Medicine | Virtua Health Cancer Program.
The facility offers a full range of services, including evaluation, treatment, and access to clinical trials, some involving proton therapy.
“I see the proton therapy center as a source of hope,” said Stephanie Fendrick, FACHE, MBA, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Virtua Health. “We want every patient to know they have a care team that will guide and support them every step of the way.”
For more information, visit www.virtua.org/pennproton or call 888-847-8823.