Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Just What The Doctor Ordered

Just What The Doctor Ordered
Cancer Research Center Should Give Vallejo's Economy A Boost
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

A patient table and imaging system sits in the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center in Heidelberg, Germany. A similar setup is being planned by Touro University for a particle therapy center in Vallejo. (Courtesy photo)

Touro University officials announced a plan Thursday to develop a particle therapy center at the Vallejo campus, which will feature the latest in cancer treatment and research and is expected to boost Vallejo's economic development.

Touro University officials and others involved with the project believe the center, which will include state-of-the-art equipment from Siemens Medical Solutions, will lead to the growth of the University and the bio-medical industry in Solano County.

"It will accelerate our growth and, more importantly, it brings in contributing industries," said Dick Hassel, vice president of administration at Touro University's Vallejo campus. "The biotech corridor is really going to thrive from this technology because it's really seen as the future of medicine."

The $330 million particle beam treatment center will feature therapies currently only being offered in Germany and Japan. Dr. Michael Clearfield, dean of the College of Osteo- pathic Medicine at Touro University, said the new technology is the next step in cancer treatment, particularly what's known as proton therapy.

The particle beam center will allow doctors "to treat tumors that, to date, are untreatable" with traditional radiation therapy, Clearfield said.

He added that the new technology can better focus on tumors and would cause less damage to surrounding tissue. It also has the potential to treat cancer with less therapy sessions, allowing patients to return to their normal lives faster and with less side effects.

The center will consist of a 125,000 square-foot building, constructed as a green facility. It is scheduled to open in 2010 at the corner of G Street and Azuar Avenue in Vallejo.

The announcement comes after almost a year of negotiations between the university and the city of Vallejo.

Vallejo City Manager Joe Tanner said the project will jump-start the city's economy.

"I would expect the economic development of Vallejo to boom once this project is up," Tanner said. "We needed something to kick-start it, and this is the thing that will kick-start it."

Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said all of Solano County will benefit from the new center.

"This really solidifies for Solano (County) that we have the ability not only to manufacture, but to research, in the bio-science area," he said.

Touro University is already discussing possible partnerships with other research universities and institutions, according to Hassel, who would not go into details.

All who are involved in the project say it is an exciting, new chapter for Vallejo, Touro University, and medicine as a whole.

"The new knowledge that's going to come from this technology is really opening up a new chapter in medicine," said Clearfield. "It's exciting for us just to be participating in something like this."

Shelly Meron can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

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