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'Proton Pete' Arrives in Miami to Treat Children With Cancer

A machine that blasts beams to fight evil cancer cells may sound more like a comic book and less of a reality.

But last week, Baptist Hospital in Kendall began installing this new medical equipment to provide an alternative to X-ray radiation for cancer patients.  

The 220-ton machine is known as  a cyclotron, but Baptist Hospital calls its newest addition “Proton Pete.” 

Proton Pete traveled long and far before arriving to the hospital -- 4,700 miles from Belgium, to be exact. And what Proton Pete does is shoot proton beams into patients who have cancer. 

“The purpose of Pete is to provide energy to the proton beam and accelerate it to an energy range of up to 250 million electron volts that can be used for targeting and treating cancer,” said Doctor Minesh Mehta, deputy director and chief of radiation oncology at Miami Cancer Institute. 

Dr. Mehta says studies suggest that children have a significant benefit from this type of therapy. Children exposed to these proton beams -instead of X-ray radiation- are significantly less likely to have the cancer recur because the beams target the tumor, and not the healthy tissue around it.  

“All tissues in children are generally in a high growth phase. These tissues are significantly susceptible to radiation damage and injury,” Mehta said 

Proton Pete is part of Baptist’s new Miami Cancer Institute, scheduled to open in January. The proton therapy is slated to begin later next year for both adults and children.