Yale New Haven Health System and Hartford HealthCare plan to construct the first proton therapy center in Connecticut and administer an advanced form of radiation treatment to cancer patients.
The center, planned in Wallingford, received its final state approval and is expected to open in 2025, the companies said Tuesday.
Proton therapy is a targeted type of radiation that uses high energy beams of proton particles, rather than X-rays, to treat cancerous growth. With this method, the radiation is more finely controlled at a higher dose to avoid affecting healthy tissue when attacking solid cancer tumors.
Several studies in recent years have suggested that proton therapy is associated with less severe side effects than traditional photon radiation therapy. Though, there is no reported difference in rates of survival or cancer termination between the two treatments.
Proton International will assist Yale New Haven and Hartford with the development of the proton facility, managing technology selection, finances, construction and operation. Employees from both health systems will work at the Wallingford center, which will include a treatment room, control room, exam rooms and clinical space.
There are more than 30 proton therapy centers in the U.S., including Mayo Clinic’s facility in Rochester, Minnesota, and a New York facility developed by Mount Sinai Health System, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Montefiore Health System.
University of Kansas Health System, McLaren Health Care and Covenant Health are also planning to open proton therapy centers.
While health systems continue to invest in advanced treatment centers, insurers and other healthcare industry members are unsure about the efficacy of proton therapy, especially with its higher price tag.
Both Aetna and UnitedHealthcare have denied coverage of cancer patients’ proton therapy, claiming the treatment was expensive, experimental and not proven to be more effective than standard radiation.
Lacking reimbursement and a steady flow of patients, a few proton therapy centers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, including Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville in 2021.