With the recent approval of a proton therapy center in Warrenville, DuPage county will soon boast having two of these "cutting-edge" facilities, as it will add to the one being built by Northern Illinois University in West Chicago. Your savvy cyber professor is not without interest in this development since he is involved in some peripheral manner with developing education for future operators of these facilities. If Argonne lands the mammoth Rare Isotope Beam Facility (FRIB) contract from DoE, then truly DuPage will be a nuclear center nonpareil. FRIB will utterly dwarf in scope and money what will be spent on these proton therapy centers. I hope Argonne gets it because it will be exciting times in accelerator technician education.
Skeptics will wonder at the utility of these centers. For many years the efficacy of proton therapy in the targeted treatment of tumors has been established. This efficacy comes with a cost: over twice as much as conventional treatment. It has not been demonstrated yet that proton therapy is a necessary alternative in a sufficiently broad range of procedures to justify the additional cost. Is this another situation of an expensive new technology chasing an application? Back in the day, lasers (or laser as the medical community likes to refer to them as - "We use laser.") received a great deal of hype when they were introduced into surgical procedures. There was a lot of aggressive marketing to replace conventional surgical procedures with "laser." Quickly it became apparent that, in many cases, the laser was not superior but was much more expensive. Just as I was trying to get into developing a laser product idea, I encountered a tremendous amount of antipathy: once bitten, twice shy kind of response.
The managers of the proton centers won't care if their procedures are not really necessary. Provided they can load them up with patients that the insurance companies will pay for they will be happy. The rest of us will foot the bill down the road.