Mayo Clinic plans first carbon ion therapy facility in North America

Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2020


The innovative technology provides new treatment options for challenging and resistant cancers.

Photograph of Kent R. Thielen, M.D.

Kent R. Thielen, M.D.

Photograph of Gianrico Farrugia, M.D.

Gianrico Farrugia, M.D.

Photograph of Nadia N. Laack, M.D.

Nadia N. Laack, M.D.

Photograph of Steven J. Buskirk, M.D.

Steven J. Buskirk, M.D.

Mayo Clinic is expanding its innovative cancer treatment options with plans to build the first carbon ion therapy facility in North America under an agreement in principle with Hitachi Ltd.

The new carbon ion facility will be built on Mayo Clinic's campus in Jacksonville, Florida.

"This facility will give us the ability to offer our patients the full spectrum of cancer treatment options," said Kent R. Thielen, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida. "It will also give patients access to clinical trials through our National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center."

Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, said Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is uniquely qualified to bring carbon ion therapy to the United States because of its three locations in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. "Carbon ion therapy has tremendous potential as a tool for treating patients with challenging cancers that do not respond well to currently available therapies," he said.

Carbon ion therapy belongs to a family of particle therapies that includes protons, helium and other ions, explained Nadia N. Laack, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Carbon ion therapy is able to kill cancer cells that are resistant to traditional radiation therapy. This capability combined with the ability to precisely deposit this treatment into the resistant tumor while minimizing the dose to adjacent healthy tissue makes it ideal to treat cancerous tumors in sensitive parts of the body, she said.

"Mayo Clinic radiation oncologists and physicists have been studying carbon ion treatment in Asia and Europe for nearly a decade and have already developed a high level of expertise in treatment planning and delivery," Dr. Laack said.

While carbon ion therapy was discovered in the United States in the 1970s, there currently are no carbon ion therapy treatment centers in North America. The technology is available only at a handful of centers in Asia and Europe.

"The availability of carbon ion technology will allow Mayo Clinic researchers to evaluate the efficacy of carbon ion therapy for the treatment of various cancer types, including exploration into new and expanded therapies, including multimodality treatment options," said Steven J. Buskirk, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Building the carbon ion treatment facility is a natural choice for Mayo Clinic, Dr. Thielen said.

"Making new and innovative treatments available to patients with serious or complex health care needs is part of our DNA at Mayo Clinic," he said. "We are proud to build on our long-standing relationship with Hitachi to make carbon ion therapy available to patients who will benefit from this technology."