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5/13/2018 7:35:00 PM
Proton therapy may be linchpin for Elkhart development

Ed Semmler, South Bend Tribune Staff Writer

Elkhart County leaders have reason to believe that the $175 million medical development that is being planned for a 117-acre parcel on the east side of the city could have a significant and long-lasting impact on the regional economy.

That’s because the anchor of the development will likely be a center that offers proton therapy — a treatment that can be used to attack cancerous tumors with more precision and fewer side effects than traditional treatment with X-rays.

There are 28 locations in the United States that currently offer proton therapy but 23 more are under construction or in development, according to the National Association of Proton Therapy. Currently, the closest locations to the South Bend-Elkhart area are Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center in Chicago and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

Developers are excited about the site at County Road 17 and the U.S. 20 Bypass because it’s about three hours from the nearest proton center and it offers easy access in all directions via the Indiana Toll Road, U.S. 31 and the Bypass.

The $40 million proton unit at Beaumont has been operating for nearly a year, and it’s drawing in patients from throughout the region and beyond, said Bob Ortlieb, media relations coordinator for the regional Detroit hospital group.

In fact, one man traveled to Beaumont from San Francisco because the doctor who runs the Michigan unit has developed an expertise treating a rare type of tumor, said Ortlieb, adding that people who visit the center typically remain for four weeks or longer.

Proton therapy treats many solid cancer tumors, including tumors of the brain, central nervous system, eye, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, liver, lung, prostate, spine and some breast tumors, the association said, adding that it’s especially important when treating children because of their smaller size.

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