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Health Journalism 2006 Field Trips: M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

The bus for this tour will leave the conference hotel at 8:30 a.m.

Key sessions

Proton Therapy Center

Aside from surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy is the single most effective means of killing cancer cells today. Treatments with traditional forms of radiation involve electromagnetic waves that release energy as they enter and leave the body, damaging normal tissue in their paths as well as the targeted tumor.

Proton therapy, on the other hand, involves beams of subatomic particles (protons) that deliver a low energy dose as they enter and penetrate the body and increase to the maximum dose as they enter and lodge in the tumor. The energy dose drops to zero beyond the tumor because the proton does not exit. Thus, a proton beam's lethal energy is concentrated on the cancer cells. Because proton beam therapy spares the surrounding tissue and produces fewer side effects than conventional radiation therapy, the dose of energy delivered to the cancer can be increased.

With only three other hospital-based proton beam centers in the country, the PTC - to be the largest such facility - will provide a much-needed addition to the nation's cancer treatment resources. The PTC will be both a treatment and a research center.

The BrainSUITE

The Department of Neurosurgery at M. D. Anderson identified an opportunity to develop an innovative technology to increase the survival of brain cancer patients by improving the treatment of brain tumors. Housed within M. D. Anderson's current surgical area, the development of a "BrainSUITE" is under way. The BrainSUITE brings together image-guided surgery (IGS) with intra-operative diagnostic imaging. Image-guided surgery connects, in real time, the operative field to a monitor which then televises to the surgeon the precise location of surgical instruments to the surrounding brain structures. The BrainSUITE will provide added benefits for surgical removal of tumors and intra-operative diagnostic imaging.

The BrainSUITE opens up new avenues of scientific research for neurosurgery. By integrating high-field magnetic resonant scanning into the operating room environment, totally new paradigms, protocols, and surgical procedures can be developed.