On August 21, 1995, Mr. Lorne Scott of Campbell River, BC, became the first person to have his cancer treated in Canada with a proton beam. The cancer treatment centre at TRIUMF results from a collaboration between the BC Cancer Agency, UBC's Eye Care Centre and TRIUMF and is the only facility of its kind in Canada. The Mr. & Mrs. P.A. Woodward's Foundation provided funds to construct the patient treatment chair and the proton beam line equipment. Before 1995, Canadian patients had to go abroad to receive proton treatment. Since then they can receive it here in Canada, and at a much lower cost.
The Proton Treatment Facility at TRIUMF is dedicated to treating a cancerous growth on the back of the eye, called choroidal melanomas. Before proton treatment became available, the most common course of action was removal of the eye. Other possible treatments included surgical removal of the tumour (which has severe limitations), or implanting a radioactive disk on the wall of the eye under the tumour for some days (Brachytherapy). These alternatives were unsuitable for large tumours, and could damage sensitive parts of the eye, often resulting in loss of vision. After proton therapy, however, patients can retain useful vision. The protons enter the eye at a carefully controlled energy, and come to rest at a precise, predictable distance inside. They deposit their energy of motion (kinetic energy) in a very narrow layer, destroying living cells in that layer. Because the beam of protons is so concentrated and deposits its energy so predictably, we can successfully destroy a tumour while better preserving the other nearby parts of the eye.
Dr. Cornelia Hoehr