$25 Million Cyclotron Brings New Cancer Treatment to AL

 1526667375 
1551807518

A specialized crane lowers the 90-ton cyclotron through the roof of a building.

Steve Wood, UAB University Relations

A 90-ton cyclotron arrived Tuesday on the campus of UAB. The machine will be part of a new proton therapy center, bringing a specialized cancer treatment to Alabama.


A crowd gathered Tuesday to witness a crane lift the giant cyclotron and slowly lower it through a hole in the roof of a building. That building, called the UAB Proton Center, was built specifically to house the machine.

Dr. James Bonner, chairman of radiation oncology at UAB, watched from the street below.

“Well you can see it’s kind of a glob of metal right now,” Bonner said of the new cyclotron. “So it’s been put together in a tight format so it can be shipped across the ocean.”

The cyclotron was built in Germany and took about a month to make its way to Birmingham. It costs around $25 million. The device is owned by a company called Proton International, but UAB clinical staff will be in charge of operating it. Once it is up and running, the cyclotron will spin protons really fast and generate a beam of energy to target cancerous tumors. Bonner says this is the first time this kind of treatment will be available in Alabama.

“I don’t think it’s worth the investment to have one of these on every street corner,” Bonner says. “This is a type of radiation that’s very specific for certain types of tumors.”

He says the cyclotron is more precise than traditional radiation, so it doesn’t damage surrounding tissue. That is better for treating kids or targeting tumors at the base of the skull. Bonner says UAB hopes to treat its first patient with the machine in January of next year.

More Front Page Coverage

Legislative Wrap-Up: What Died And What Passed On The Final Day

Many bills made it out before Monday's deadline. But the lawmakers also expect a special session later this year.

Alabama Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Legislation

Lawmakers had a change of heart after decades of debate on the issue.

UAB Closes Three COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Sites While Alabama’s Vaccination Rate Remains Below 50%

UAB announced this week it's closing the majority of its public COVID-19 vaccination sites because of a decline in participation. Meanwhile, Alabama remains at the bottom nationally for the number of adults that have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

‘When Buses Were A-Comin’: Remembering The Freedom Riders 60 Years On

A group of young civil rights activists began their journey to the South to challenge segregation on interstate buses in May 1961. The riders were taunted and beaten by white mobs – and jailed. Participants of the movement share what their fight means now.

Using Pastors And Pints, Gulf States Try To Boost COVID Vaccination Rates In White Communities

Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama have the lowest vaccination rates nationally, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health officials are considering creative incentives to get the numbers up from church events to possible beer giveaways.

As Demand Drops, Health Officials Look For Ways To Encourage Vaccinations

Health officials say at first they were focused on vaccinating elderly and at-risk people in Alabama. Now the focus is shifting to people who are skeptical or apathetic about the vaccine.

More Front Page Coverage