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Mayo Clinic opens $188M advanced cancer treatment facility

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Mayo Clinic celebrated the grand opening of a new advanced cancer therapy center in Rochester this weekend.

The $188 million proton-beam therapy facility in downtown Rochester, named the Richard O. Jacobson Building, will begin treating patients in June, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports.

The 100,000-square-foot building has been under construction for more than three years. It was named after Jacobson in recognition of his $100 million gift to the project.

Proton beam therapy is a relatively new technology for treating cancerous tumors that is more precise than traditional radiation therapy, and has fewer side effects. This video explains more.

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The head of the Mayo proton beam therapy program, Dr. Robert Foote, says the new approach will be especially beneficial for treating cancer in children because it will reduce the amount of radiation their growing bodies are exposed to, the Post-Bulletin notes.

"We can cure 85 percent of kids with cancers," Foote said, "but two-thirds of them will have chronic health problems related to the radiation exposure of conventional treatment."

One downside of the new technology is the cost – proton-beam therapy can cost up to 70 percent more than regular radiation therapy, according to the Post Bulletin, and it's not always covered by insurance.

Some critics have questioned Mayo's decision to build not one, but two proton-beam facilities. The other one is at the Mayo campus in Arizona, according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

A New York Times op-ed said the expensive machinery is contributing to a "medical arms race," and notes the new technology has not been proven more effective than less expensive options.

Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy responded to the criticism in a letter to the Times, which said the Mayo's main interest in using new treatments is to help its patients and benefit science.

Here's a time-lapse video showing the construction of the new facility.

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