The Mayo Clinic announced Thursday that a longtime patient and philanthropist has donated $100 million to help establish a cancer-fighting proton beam therapy program.
The gift, from Iowa entrepreneur Richard Jacobson, will help fund Mayo’s proton beam therapy program, which will include facilities on the clinic’s Rochester, Minn., and Phoenix, Ariz., campuses.
Proton beam therapy is a type of cancer radiation treatment in which a beam of protons can precisely target a tumor’s shape and location without affecting the surrounding tissue or nearby organs. It allows oncologists to apply higher therapeutic doses with fewer side effects. It’s particularly useful for treating tumors in children or complex tumors in adults.
The Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program will use an advanced type of proton beam therapy known as pencil beam scanning, which uses a narrower beam. Developed at a Swiss physics institute about a decade ago, it’s still only in use at a few centers. The MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston became the first U.S. clinic to begin using the treatment in 2008. Massachusetts General Hospital announced the addition pencil-beam scanning at its center in 2009.
The donation from Jacobson is the largest from a living individual in the clinic’s history, as well as the largest gift he has ever made to a single institution.
Jacobson is founder of Jacobson Companies, one of the nation’s largest privately owned warehouse companies, which is based in Des Moines. As a philanthropist, he’s given millions to youth, education and medical causes, including previous gifts to the Mayo Clinic, where he funded the creation of a molecular medicine professorship currently held by Dr. Stephen Russell.
The Mayo Clinic announced plans to establish a proton beam therapy program in November. The Rochester facility will be named after Jacobson and include eight treatment rooms, serving an estimated 1,240 patients annually. The clinic said it anticipates using the technology to treat some head and neck, breast, gastrointestinal, lung, spine and prostate cancers, and tumors in or near the eye.
Dr. Robert Foote, chair of Mayo’s radiation oncology department, explained the treatment in a YouTube video in November.