America’s about to be given a powerful weapon in the cancer war

America’s cancer battle is about to get another weapon in its arsenal. The country’s first carbon ion therapy facility for treating cancer is being developed on the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida, in conjunction with Hitachi. The treatment for cancer therapy will be part of a $233 million oncology clinic in Mayo, revealed in June.

The new treatment is seen as the next frontier in cancer care, as an alternative to surgery. It has the ability to kill cancer cells which resist conventional radiation therapy. However, although the technology was developed in California in 1975 the U.S. was slow to adopt the procedure.

Carbon ion therapy damages the DNA of fast-growing cancer cells, and eventually kills them, according to scientists. But this procedure, unlike older forms of radiation, does minimal harm to normal tissue. Studies also suggest it triggers an anti-cancer immune response.

Dr Steven Buskirk, Chair of the Radiation Oncology Department at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, says, “The development of carbon ion technology will allow Mayo Clinic researchers to evaluate the efficacy of carbon ion therapy in the treatment of different types of cancer, including exploration of new and expanded treatments, including multi-modal treatment options.”

“Some cancers are inherently resistant to conventional radiation, and we want to assess the effectiveness of carbon ion therapy in these cancers first,” he explains.

The aim is to set up a national Scientific Advisory Board consisting of U.S. and international doctors and scientists to research the feasibility and safety of the medication and obtain FDA approval so that the treatment can be provided in 2025, says Dr Kent Thielen, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. He states that his organization is a leading, comprehensive cancer centre accredited by the National Cancer Institute, and oncologists and physicists from the Mayo Clinic have been researching carbon ion treatment in Asia and Europe for almost a decade. Mayo has already established a high level of competence in the preparation and implementation of treatments.

Mayo Clinic’s oncology clinic in Jacksonville will also include proton beam therapy for patients with cancer so it can provide the full spectrum of treatment options.

Many countries have been fast in the last 25 years to implement carbon ion therapy. Japan built the world’s first carbon therapy center in 1994, after it was shut down in 1993 by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the U.S. laboratory that created it. In Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan and China, there are such centers today. Further locations in South Korea, Taiwan and France are under development.