© 2023 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

UT Health San Antonio Announces Plans For Cutting Edge Cancer Treatment Center

Artist rendering UT Health San Antonio Proton Therapy and Research Center
UT Health San Antonio
The planned UT Health San Antonio Proton Therapy and Research Center is expected to open in the fall of 2023.

UT Health San Antonio is bringing a new kind of cancer radiation therapy to South Texas. It’s called proton radiation therapy.

This type of targeted radiation therapy can potentially significantly shorten radiation treatment time for some patients, according to Dr. Ruben Mesa, executive director of the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson.

“With proton therapy, frequently, the number of days that someone needs radiation is dramatically less, sometimes one to two days or under five," Mesa said. "So, unlike other types of radiation, that sometimes can mean four to six weeks of therapy, that can be much more abbreviated and make it much more feasible."

This will reduce hardship for patients who come to San Antonio from all over South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico for conventional radiation therapy. These patients would typically have to arrange lodging for weeks to receive their treatments.

Proton International
The new San Antonio center will house a 15-ton cyclotron, which produces proton beams that precisely target cancer tumors.

Proton radiation therapy is also better for the patient than conventional X-ray radiation. It uses proton beams to precisely target tumors, leaving surrounding tissue alone. It has been used in brain, spine, eye, liver, prostate and breast with an estimated 60% reduction in radiation to surrounding tissues, which is particularly beneficial for children, Mesa said.

“Radiation in growing tissues can be particularly harmful, because it can then stop them from growing or increase the risk of them developing cancer in those areas later in life as secondary effects of having had the radiation,” Mesa said, adding that proton therapy can reduce that risk in children.

Proton radiation therapy also results in better outcomes for patients with prostate cancer. Conventional radiation can cause incontinence and impotence in prostate cancer patients. Proton therapy reduces that risk.

The new center will be run in partnership with a Georgia-based company called Proton International, which will build and own the facility. The Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio will staff the center. It will also oversee research, medical and academic training, and grants.

The planned 26,000-square foot center will be located on UT Health San Antonio's growing Greehey campus on the north side of the city, near the Mays Cancer Center and the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute.

It's expected to open in September 2023.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie