ROYAL OAK — When 86-year-old Bill Baker learned that his brain tumor was returning, it was another valley in his medical journey.
Already a cancer survivor and former Mayo Clinic patient for partial tumor removal, the mid-Michigan resident wasn’t sure if there would be any more options. But then one day while channel surfing, he saw Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson discussing a new type of radiation treatment coming to the area.
After much persistence and consideration, on June 28, Baker became the first patient of Beaumont’s Proton Therapy Center at the Royal Oak hospital.
The $40 million, 25,200 square-foot Proton Therapy Center officially opened its doors to the public July 13 during a celebratory grand opening, which included presenting Baker with a T-shirt stating that he is No. 1.
The center is the first in Michigan and one of 25 in the United States.
“We’re very excited to bring this next generation of radiation technology here to Michigan,” said Beaumont Health President and CEO John Fox. “On June 28, we joined an elite group of cancer centers around the country.”
Craig Stevens, Beaumont Health radiation oncology chairman and medical doctor, explained that proton therapy is a “powerful” and “precise” form of treatment for cancer patients that deposits energy directly into the tumor, sparing nearby healthy organs and tissue from harm.
Stevens explained that the benefits of proton radiation include allowing for two to three times the dose of radiation to a single area, and re-radiation of already treated areas. He said another benefit includes less damage to other areas of the body and fewer side effects, because of pencil-beam scanning technology.
Stevens said that for the right patients, proton therapy is life-changing.
“It was many years in the making, but we never gave up in our efforts to bring this advanced cancer therapy to patients and families in Michigan,” he said.
Beaumont broke ground on the center in February of 2015.
Patterson said the center is a star in his Medical Main Street initiative.
“Beaumont has put medical Main Street on the map,” Patterson said, adding that people from all over will travel to the county to receive the cancer treatment. “I consider the Beaumont Proton Therapy Center so important that I made it the centerpiece of my State of the County address that I give every year.”
State Rep. Jim Ellison attended the opening ceremony last week and was acknowledged for the role he played in the center’s creation.
“I was around as mayor when we first started this project,” he said. “So it’s exciting to come in and see it in place and treating patients.”
Stevens said the Proton Therapy Center will serve about 300 to 500 patients a year.
“It’s not a huge number of patients, but for those patients, over the number of decades the center will be operating, it will have a huge impact on the lives of patients in this region,” he said.