PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Rare high-tech equipment is on its way to Peoria to improve cancer treatment. It’s part of OSF Healthcare’s new Cancer Institute, which is currently under construction.

Proton beam therapy is a specialized form of cancer treatment that targets tumors without damaging surrounding tissues. The technology is currently only available in around 30 places in North America and OSF Healthcare will soon become one of them.

Robert Anderson, CEO of OSF Healthcare-Central Region, said hundreds of times every year patients have to travel to Chicago or St. Louis for this type of care.

He said bringing proton beam therapy to Peoria helps get rid of that barrier.

“OSF will be able to bring complete cancer care to our community and really improve people’s lives and the lives of their family because they won’t have to travel as far to get the care that they need, and that’s very gratifying,” Anderson said.

Staff at OSF will be trained on the equipment by Varian, which developed the proton therapy unit.

The first patient to use the technology will likely come in early 2024.

PROCESS OF BRINGING PROTON BEAM TO PEORIA

From Germany to a port in Baltimore to Peoria, that’s the path of the 100-ton proton beam on its way to OSF Healthcare’s Cancer Institute.

“It involves a lot of communication, a lot of coordination between a variety of different people, from logistics to trucking,” said Roland Millington, marketing manager for POINTCORE.

It also requires an understanding of each state’s laws, as the 210-foot truck carrying the equipment drives through them.

“In some states, you can transport a load of this size and magnitude overnight, and sometimes you have to travel during the day,” Millington said.

Getting the proton beam to Central Illinois is only part of the challenge. The next step is using cranes to place the technology inside a concrete vault on OSF’s campus.

“When you’re talking about a superconducting cyclotron, you’ve got to get everything just right. It’s dangerous if you don’t.

This week, the rare equipment will reach Peoria after months of planning and days of travel.

It’s expected to create traffic delays if you encounter it, but Millington said the purpose is well worth the wait.

“Not being able to get around it or having to take a different pathway is for a good cause. Because this means lives are going to be saved, lives are going to be made much more whole,” Millington said.

The cost just to transport the proton beam is $85,000 dollars. OSF is prohibited from disclosing the cost of the beam itself.

It is expected to arrive in Peoria on Wednesday and be installed on Thursday, weather permitting.