Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Proton Therapy Gets Early Debate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Proton Therapy Gets Early Debate

Article excerpt

Though debate in City Council committees is weeks away, Councilwoman Faye Rustin held a congressional-style hearing last week on proton beam cancer treatment.

Rustin, a breast cancer survivor, hosted the meeting with oncologists from as far away as Harvard University and as near as Orange Park to debate the merits of the planned Florida Proton Therapy Institute, to be housed adjacent to Shands Jacksonville in Springfield.

Though the city isn't putting in any direct dollars, the council will be asked to approve more than $80 million in separate bond offerings for the project. The city could be on the hook for up to $15 million if the project fails.

The state is kicking in $11 million, combined with the $15 million in bonds, to construct the $26 million center, which the city would own if the institute abandoned the project.

Kirk Wendland, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Corp., called that the worst-case scenario.

Proton therapy is used for the specialized treatment of cancer, mostly pediatric, lung and prostate cancers. There now are two such facilities in the country, though as many as six are expected in the next seven years. The non-profit center, which would be run by the University of Florida College of Medicine, is being touted as an economic development tool to increase Jacksonville's medical exposure.

Rustin, who questioned the effectiveness of the treatment, said most of her questions were answered during the session, though she'll probably head to Boston to visit a center before offering her support.

Legislation approving the bonds has been stalled for a month and Wendland is hoping for a vote during the next month.

LAWSUIT: Public relations consultant Paul McCormick said last week that he and the Utility Contractors Association of North Florida have parted ways.

McCormick had represented the association in its lawsuit against City Hall's minority business program, which the association wants ended. McCormick said the need for his work had passed, and association President Ryan Schmitt wouldn't take press calls.

Because the lawsuit became a political hot potato, McCormick had gone on an indefinite leave from Gate Petroleum executive John Peyton's mayoral bid. …

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