UMC Groningen treats first patient with proton therapy

UMC Groningen treats first patient with proton therapy

24 January 2018

After years of preparations UMC Groningen has successfully treated the first proton therapy patients. The UMC Groningen proton therapy center is the first center in the Netherlands to offer this new treatment modality. Dutch patients will no longer have to travel abroad – spending weeks away from their home and loved ones – to receive this treatment.

Over the past three years the UMC Groningen terrain has seen the construction of an impressive center. The center has concrete ceilings and walls with a thickness of several meters, a particle accelerator with a weight of 220 tons, and it houses the most modern radiation therapy equipment. This building process has been accompanied by the recruitment of dozens of radiation technologists and (medical) physicists, the development of nationwide protocols and extensive training in a virtual proton therapy center. A time-lapse of the construction of the proton therapy center can be seen here.

Patient referral

Proton therapy allows the very accurate delivery of radiation to the tumor, thereby reducing the amount of radiation to surrounding healthy tissues and reducing the probability of side effects. This new therapy is especially beneficial for children with cancer, for patients with a base-of-skull tumor and for patients with a tumor inside the eye. Other patients may also benefit, for example those with a tumor in the head and neck region. For each individual patient a radiation oncologist will apply nationwide protocols to determine whether or not a proton therapy treatment has advantages compared to the current state-of-the art in photon radiation therapy. Each year about 60.000 patients receive radiation therapy treatment. It is estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of these patients will be eligible for proton therapy.

UMC Groningen and other radiotherapy institutes in the region have established a close collaboration for patient referral. This collaboration also includes the Prinses Máxima Center for pediatric oncology in Utrecht as UMC Groningen will be the only center in the Netherlands to treat children with proton therapy. The number of patients receiving proton therapy at the UMCG will gradually increase to 600 patients per year. The proton therapy center is an integral part of the UMC Groningen Cancer Center, which offers all available treatments to cancer patients.

Proton therapy research

As a prime example of the development of innovative diagnostics and treatments at the UMCG, proton therapy is one of the pillars our scientific research. Last year UMC Groningen appointed Stefan Both to be the first professor in proton therapy in the Netherlands.

In cooperation with MAASTRO Clinic, HollandPTC, other university medical centers, the Netherlands Cancer Institute / Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and the Prinses Máxima Center, the UMC Groningen will develop a research infrastructure to determine the effectiveness and added value of proton therapy. The centers will establish a common database to store the treatment outcome of all patients receiving proton therapy in the Netherlands.