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$15 Million from Ralph J. Roberts and Brian L. Roberts for Largest and Most Comprehensive Proton Therapy Center
December 12, 2006, Volume 53, No. 15

Ralph and Suzanne Roberts, Aileen and Brian Roberts
At the recent naming ceremony celebrating the establishment of the Roberts Proton Therapy Center (from left to right) Ralph and Suzanne Roberts with Aileen and Brian Roberts.

University of Pennsylvania alumni Ralph J. Roberts, W ’41,  and his son Brian L. Roberts, W ’81,  have pledged $15 million to help create the first-of-its-kind proton therapy center for the treatment of cancer. The Roberts Proton Therapy Center will be unique in its ability to fully integrate conventional radiation treatment with proton radiation, which more accurately targets tumors and leaves surrounding healthy tissue unaffected. The Center will also be the first to be located on the campus of a world-class academic medical center, facilitating scientific research to measure and improve this innovative therapy. The gift will help finance the construction and equipment for the Center, scheduled to open to patients in 2009.

“The philanthropy of Ralph and Brian Roberts will be a legacy of life and hope for cancer patients in the Philadelphia area and beyond,” said President Amy Gutmann. “It will be the jewel in the crown of Penn Medicine’s cancer treatment facilities, bestowing healing treatment for a deadly disease that is diagnosed in over one million new patients each year.”

Proton therapy is the most precise form of advanced radiation therapy available to treat certain cancers and other diseases. It works by targeting a focused beam of high-dose radiation to a specific tumor site—thereby dramatically decreasing damage to surrounding normal tissue. Proton therapy results in less side effects and clinical complications for patients; and it enhances the physician’s ability to treat tumors close to critical organs and the spinal cord.

“Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania have always been special to our family,” said Ralph J. Roberts. “Suzanne and I are delighted to have the opportunity to give back to these two communities that have meant so much to us, with a gift that gives life through groundbreaking cancer research and treatment. Proton therapy as a treatment for cancer will undoubtedly touch thousands of lives, both adults and children, and we are fortunate to be a part of that process.”

“Aileen and I are honored to be involved in helping to bring proton therapy cancer treatment to Penn Medicine and to Philadelphia,” said Brian L. Roberts. “Our family has experienced firsthand how cancer affects one’s life and the lives of those around them. With the addition of this state-of-the-art technology to Penn’s already stellar cancer treatment and research centers, tens of thousands of patients along the East Coast will have access to this life-saving treatment each year.”

“The impact of Ralph and Brian Roberts’ gift will benefit cancer patients for generations to come,” said Dr. Arthur H. Rubenstein, EVP of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the School of Medicine. “This is a landmark gift from both the perspective of meaningful, strategic philanthropy, as well as from the standpoint of innovative cancer therapy and research. As the largest such facility in the world, this Center will provide lifesaving treatment to an estimated 3,000 patients a year.”

With conventional radiation treatment, 20 percent of cancers return because the dose is too low. Proton beam therapy permits a higher and safer dose of tumor-killing radiation to be delivered to a cancer site. Because it is less harmful to normal tissue, proton beam therapy is used to treat pediatric cancers as well as those in adults.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for Penn Medicine,” said Ralph W. Muller, CEO of UPHS. “We have always been known as a place of collaborative thinking and cross-disciplinary teamwork. The Roberts Proton Therapy Center will further our long-standing partnership with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, enhancing our combined efforts to explore the most effective uses of this innovative treatment.”

In addition, with the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, Penn Medicine will begin a new relationship with Walter Reed Medical Center, through which proton therapy technology will be available to United States military personnel.

Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, Chair and Henry K. Pancost Professor of Radiation Oncology, will head the new Proton Therapy Center which will occupy 75,000 square feet of space adjacent to The Raymond and Ruth Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine that is now being built to house Penn’s outpatient cancer, cardiovascular, diagnostic, and surgical services. The Roberts Proton Therapy Center will cost approximately $140 million and take about three years to complete. The first patient is expected to be treated in 2009.

Almanac - December 12, 2006, Volume 53, No. 15