400 Patients and Counting: The McLaren Proton Therapy Center Completes Another Milestone


December 2021 marked the third year of treating patients at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, part of the Karmanos Cancer Network. Since 2018, the capacity of the center has grown and proton therapy experts are able to treat many more patients, with plans to expand over the next couple of years. Hundreds of patients have gone through proton therapy treatment, including the 400th patient, who completed treatment for acinic cell carcinoma in November 2021.

“It feels good to finally say that I’ve completed it,” said Joshua Story from Bay City. “It [proton therapy] was presented as a low-side effect form of treatment and I certainly experienced little side effects from it. I still had all my energy, and my appetite was still there.”

Story, now 26, was diagnosed when he was 23. His initial treatment plan included a comprehensive approach by multiple oncologists: surgery by a head and neck specialist at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, then conventional radiation at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Bay Region. Unfortunately, the cancer returned, and additional surgery or conventional radiation could not be given to salvage it. That’s when he was referred to the McLaren Proton Therapy Center.

“The only real side effect that I experienced from the proton therapy was just the skin irritation, which was expected,” explained Story. “Aside from that, the treatment and everything went smoothly.”

Proton therapy is a beneficial treatment for solid tumors located near important organs and structures, including:

  • Bladder Cancer (select cases)
  • Brain and Central Nervous System Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Head, Neck, and Skull Base Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Lymphoma (especially in the neck, mediastinum, and abdomen)
  • Liver Cancer (especially hepatocellular carcinoma and metastic liver cancer)
  • Lung Cancer (especially centrally located and tumors spread to lymph nodes in the mediastinum)
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Pediatric and Young Adult Cancers
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Spine and Chest Wall Cancer
  • Select Gynecological and Gastrointestinal Cancers
  • Recurrent disease (even if previous radiation has been given)

“Not only was proton therapy the only curative option available after his cancer survived surgery and conventional radiation, but we could also give the treatment safely with minimal side effects and no damage to the critical, normal tissue close by, like Joshua’s brain, eyes, throat, and cranial nerves,” said Hesham Gayar, MD, medical director of the McLaren Proton Therapy Center.

“Proton therapy is especially beneficial in patients with long-life expectancy, where their quality of life is important. It is also of great value when critical, normal organs are close to the tumor and when previous radiation is given. It is a safer cancer treatment even when nothing else can be offered.”

Dr. Gayar’s team of radiation oncologists who specialize in proton therapy include Brian Yeh, MD, PhD; Christian Hyde, MD, DABR; and Omar Gayar, MD. The team hopes to complete more milestones in the future. With the recent announcement of expansion, the McLaren Proton Therapy Center will nearly double the capacity for treatment and give more cancer patients access to proton therapy.

Contact the McLaren Proton Therapy Center to discuss a case or to refer a patient.

Download a referral form or submit a referral online, here.

Phone: (855) MY-PROTON (855-697-7686)

Fax: (810) 342-4229

Email: protontherapy@mclaren.org