Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Northwestern physician group
named clinical services provider
for NIU proton therapy center

State panel gives its approval to project

March 3, 2008

NIU has named Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation as its expected provider of clinical services for the $160 million proton therapy cancer treatment and research center to be built in the DuPage National Technology Park in Chicago’s western suburbs.

Image provided by BSA LifeStructures.

On the heels of the Feb. 26 announcement naming the expected service provider, the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board in Chicago gave its approval for the project to proceed.

“We are here today in that spirit of hope and with constant focus on our mission,” NIU President John Peters said at the facilities planning board meeting. “This facility will stand in testament to our mission as a world class-educational, research and now, cancer treatment center.”

NIU Board of Trustees Chair Cherilyn G. Murer hailed the collaboration with Northwestern, saying that NIU’s expertise in advanced accelerator physics and engineering, coupled with the world-class cancer treatment experience of doctors from the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago, would make NIU’s proton treatment center the best in the world.

“Our anticipated collaboration with Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation speaks to the high caliber of our endeavor,” Murer said.

“While patient focus will be our primary objective, the incredible byproducts we will offer through education and research in the form of medical, scientific and technology protocols will work to advance the human condition across the globe,” she added. “Ours will be far more than a community proton center to treat cancer. We envision the NIU facility as a regional and even national resource complemented through NIU’s work with Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratories, both world leaders in accelerator physics, neutron and proton therapies.”

Under the expected collaborative agreement between NIU and Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, physicians who are full-time faculty members or researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine and are on the attending physician staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital will deliver clinical and related services at the new state-of-the-art cancer treatment center.

Officials expect the agreement to be finalized within three months.

The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board staff report issued last month found the NIU application for a certificate of exemption (COE) complete and in full compliance with requirements.

“We have done all that has been asked of us and much more. We are ready and eager to begin our new endeavor, and we look forward to fulfilling our mission of outreach and service to all the people of Illinois,” said John Lewis, project director and associate vice president at NIU.

Currently there are only five proton therapy centers in the country. Patients often travel hundreds or thousands of miles to receive the specialized cancer treatment.

Proton therapy is an advanced and highly effective form of radiation treatment utilizing proton beams. The beams are created by a particle accelerator that is housed in a structure the size of a football field.

The therapy is non-invasive, extremely precise and painless.

Unlike conventional radiation therapy, proton beam treatments destroy only the tumor leaving good tissues unaffected. It has been proven to be especially effective in treating prostate and head and neck cancers as well as pediatric cancers, where preservation of organs, systems and tissue during critical formative years is of utmost importance. The male African-American population is at particular risk for prostate cancer and suffers a higher incidence of the disease than other groups.

In keeping with its mission of public service, NIU has also negotiated a payment schedule with the Illinois Department of Public Aid for treating Medicaid patients and expects to offer its services to a full spectrum of applicants.

The facility will be known as the Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center, LLC.