State and Local Governments Come Up Short on Pledges to Support the New Proton Therapy Center at Historically Black Hampton University

Proton therapy is the most precise form of radiation treatment for cancer patients. Proton therapy targets a tumor while sparing surrounding healthy tissue, causing far fewer side effects than traditional therapy. There are currently five proton therapy treatment centers operating in the United States.

The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute is scheduled to open later this year. The 98,000-square-foot facility will have five treatment rooms and will be the only proton therapy cancer treatment center in Virginia. The institute, on the campus of the historically black university, hopes to treat over 2,000 patients per year with breast, lung, prostate, pediatric, and other cancers and plans to be an important research center for cancer treatments.

But the nation’s severe economic recession is causing budget headaches for the institute before it even opens its doors. The Virginia legislature cut $510,000 in funding to the institute. In 2007 the city of Hampton had pledged $10 million to Hampton University for scientific research, the bulk of which would have gone to the Proton Therapy Institute. But now Molly Joseph Ward, mayor of Hampton, says, “I can’t see us being able to fulfill that pledge.” Mayor Ward said that the $1.3 million already allocated may be all the money the university receives.