State OK’s plans for a proton cancer treatment center in Wallingford

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WALLINGFORD — A partnership between two major healthcare networks to build a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center in the city has won state approval.

After months of review, the state Office of Health Strategy last week approved an application from Yale New Haven Health and Hartford HealthCare to build and operate a proton beam cancer treatment center at 932 Northrop Road.

The approval allows the two healthcare networks doing business as Connecticut Proton Therapy Center to purchase proton beam technology that has not previously been used in the state. The 25,000 square foot center will use highly targeted radiation proton therapy rather than conventional radiation therapy to treat cancer. Proton therapy is currently only available at a handful of Northeastern facilities outside of Connecticut, according to state filings.

The partnership includes Proton International, which will provide the equipment, construction and operational functions of the future center. The Connecticut Proton Therapy Center filed its Certificate of Need application in 2019 and went through a series of in-person and virtual hearings, as well as requests for medical, financial and operational information.

“Yale New Haven Health is proud and excited to bring this highly innovative technology to patients in Connecticut and beyond,” said Christopher O’Connor, CEO of Yale New Haven Health, in a statement. “Our unprecedented collaboration with HHC will allow us to care for cancer patients in new and effective ways by bringing life-changing therapy to our state. We are grateful that the state has recognized the value of this technology to Connecticut residents and the importance of this unique collaboration.

The Office of Health Strategy recently denied a similar request from Danbury Proton Therapy, citing among other factors that it was not tied to a medical facility, according to state reports.

“This is a historic moment for cancer care in Connecticut,” Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeffrey A. Flaks said in a statement. “We are grateful for the state’s support for this innovative partnership with Yale New Haven Health and Proton International. Together, we are transforming healthcare. This newly established partnership will not only provide our patients and communities with access to proton therapy – one of the most clinically advanced radiation therapy treatments in the world – but it will establish Connecticut as a destination hub of ” world class” in state-of-the-art cancer care. I couldn’t be prouder of this partnership which will undoubtedly be a game-changer in the lives of cancer patients. »

Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses a beam of high-energy protons to irradiate cancer. Proponents said the main advantage over other types of radiation therapy is that the dose is more finely controlled. With a proton beam, there is less ingress, egress, and scattered radiation, so doctors can safely deliver higher doses of radiation to tumors with fewer side effects. It is considered appropriate for many solid cancerous tumors including tumors of the brain and central nervous system, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, liver, lungs, prostate, spine and breast. It is especially beneficial for children, as they are more vulnerable to radiation damage to healthy tissue.

The Wallingford center, scheduled to open in 2025, will include the latest technology and equipment; treatment room; control room; examination rooms and clinical space. Employees will include physicians and clinical staff from Yale New Haven Health and Hartford HealthCare, as well as additional new staff.

The partnership’s rationale for choosing the Wallingford site was its central location, access to interstate highways, availability of parking, and access to nearby hotels, according to state records.

The proposed location is a 12-acre site adjacent to the Courtyard by Marriott on the Interstate 91 side of Northrop Road. Economic development specialist Timothy Ryan worked on the deal for months, but was not told who the client or end-use was, but that they needed medical office space, near I-91, with a set number of acres.

“We came up with multiple sites and the site selectors went back to the client,” Ryan said in 2019. “It’s a process of elimination, a process of shrinkage. We were competing with other cities.”

“It’s a massive project and we’re very, very happy and it’s one we can collectively celebrate…and the (Economic Development) Commission is the one that paved the way for this,” Ryan said last week. .

Although the new therapy would save patients from having to travel to Boston or New York for proton therapies, costs to Medicaid consumers and patients were a big part of the approval process. Under the agreement, Connecticut Proton Therapy must become a Medicaid provider, obtain payment guarantees from providers, and implement a financial assistance policy. The cost of a five-week series of treatments is estimated at $73,000, but promoters suggest the therapy could reduce the number of treatments and hospitalizations needed.

“The idea of ​​hospitals sharing high-cost technology is potentially good for consumers, especially if the alternative is to charge Connecticut patients for two separate but not fully utilized high-cost facilities,” said Ted Doolittle, health care advocate for the state of Connecticut. . “However, these partnerships must be subject to ongoing, ongoing pricing review by regulators to ensure the partners are not charging unwarranted prices for these expensive therapies.”

Journalist Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at [email protected]

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