The last week in July marked a milestone in the construction of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center/UC Health Proton Therapy Center at our Liberty Campus – the arrival and installation of the cyclotron – a type of particle accelerator and the heart of the cancer-fighting proton therapy technology.
And while the giant piece of equipment reached its destination in Liberty Township, OH last Wednesday, its journey actually began on June 24th in Germany where it left the Varian Medical Systems’ factory.
The photo below shows the two pieces of the cyclotron packaged and ready for shipment. The container on the left contains the main body of the cyclotron which weighed about 95 tons including packaging, and the container on the right contains the upper pole cap or the top piece of the cyclotron which weighs about 35 tons also including the packaging.
From the factory, the containers were transported via trucks to Bremerhaven, Germany, where they were carefully loaded onto a shipping vessel to make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. They arrived in Baltimore on the weekend of July 18th, cleared customs there and we received word on July 22nd that the two pieces were headed toward Liberty Township.
On Wednesday morning, the truck carrying the upper pole cap arrived at Liberty Campus as planned and the container was lifted fairly quickly from the truck.
The main body of the cyclotron arrived later that afternoon amid a rain storm. This piece is so large and heavy, it required a special 210-foot long, multi-axle, hydraulic trailer containing 82 wheels to move it. The whole thing took up two lanes of the highway during its journey. State Highway patrol officers and State Department of Transportation officials accompanied the cyclotron all the way from Baltimore, with new sets of escorts arriving at each state border. The Butler County Sheriff’s office was also involved with the move logistics and undoubtedly countless other organizations and individuals contributed to the orchestration of the remarkable trip that our cyclotron took to arrive in Liberty Township.
The main body stayed on the truck overnight and on Thursday morning, the lift logistics began. It took the whole morning to remove the container pieces, exposing the cyclotron. A team of experts from Varian are on-site and coordinated all of the lift logistics. At about 2 pm, the body of the cyclotron was lifted into the air by an enormous crane and placed with precision through a hole in the roof, onto its purpose-built base inside the building.
Later that afternoon, the upper pole cap was also lowered in and onto the body, completing the cyclotron.
While it is the heart of the ProBeam system, it is only a piece of a very complicated puzzle. The proton beam that is created by the cyclotron is passed along the beam line which is surrounded by precisely calibrated magnets that ensure the beam does not lose its energy along the way. The proton beam is then delivered to one of the gantries or treatment bays.
The proton therapy center at our Liberty Campus will initially have three gantries – one for pediatric treatment, one for adult treatment and one dedicated to research. There is space for a 4th gantry to be added as needed. Each of the gantries weighs 300 tons – but because each is shipped in 4 pieces, the logistics of the moves are much simpler than that of the cyclotron.
Proton therapy is a form of radiation therapy used to treat certain types of cancers and lymphomas. You can learn more about the technology and it’s applications for pediatric cancer patients by clicking here. Construction began on this project in 2013 and the proton center is expected to be open in winter 2016-17.
Cincinnati Children’s will operate the center in partnership with University of Cincinnati Medical Center and University of Cincinnati Physicians.