Proton Therapy Cancer Treatment

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Dr. Cornelia Hoehr, a research scientist at TRIUMF and manager of the TRIUMF Proton Therapy facility, prepares a patient for treatment.

Canada’s first proton therapy facility

On August 21, 1995, Mr. Lorne Scott of Campbell River, BC, became the first person in Canada to have his cancer treated with a proton beam.

Mr. Scott suffered from a rare form of ocular cancer called ocular melanoma, and had been faced with the dilemma that many Canadians with ocular melanoma experienced: either undergo traditional therapy, such as chemo- and radiotherapy, or travel abroad for the effective but expensive proton therapy treatment. The advent of the proton therapy treatment center within TRIUMF (Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science) heralded a new era for ocular melanoma treatment for Canadians and represented a striking innovation in the field of accelerator-based disease treatment.

Today, the proton therapy treatment center (located onsite at the TRIUMF campus in Vancouver, B.C.) treats around ten patients per year. The facility runs as a collaboration between TRIUMF, the British Columbia Cancer Agency, and the University of British Columbia’s Eye Care Centre. Proton therapy treatment has an average success rate of 95% for tumor control and an average five-year survival rate of 80%, which are on par with surgical removal of the eye. Proton radiotherapy is unique in that it enters the eye at a controlled energy, and focuses at a precise distance inside the tissue. These unique properties allow doctors to deliver the energy directly to the tumor, destroy cancerous cells while preserving the nearby parts of the eye and, in many cases, save the patient’s vision.

Learn more about TRIUMF’s proton therapy:

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TRIUMF is Canada’s particle accelerator centre. From the hunt for the smallest particles in the universe to the development of new technologies, including next-generation batteries and medical isotopes, TRIUMF is pushing the frontiers in research to advance science, medicine, and business.