Construction on a new $100 million center for treating cancer patients using proton beam therapy is slated to begin this year at the University Medical Center campus in New Orleans, a development that local and state officials hope will boost its profile as a health care destination.
Tennessee-based Provision Healthcare announced plans Friday for the 30,000-square-foot Louisiana Proton Therapy Center, which will join two dozen such facilities in the U.S., the next closest ones being in Shreveport and Houston. Construction is expected to begin by late this year and last two years.
The company said it plans to introduce a "more efficient prototype facility in New Orleans," where it expects to attract local and out-of-state cancer patients for treatment.
The center was touted as one that will bring another treatment option to the city's burgeoning biomedical corridor.
“This is another sign of New Orleans’ growing economy and business attraction efforts," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "Provision will be a great addition to our health care industry and biomedical corridor, will create jobs and will advance cancer treatment to help people in a real way.”
“Provision Healthcare is an exciting manifestation of our destination health care strategy, whereby people from outside of New Orleans come here to seek critical care, and spend time and money," said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc., a regional economic development group.
Backers of the controversial and expensive advanced treatment say it produces fewer side effects for patients than conventional radiation treatments.
Provision Healthcare is pursuing a partnership with UMC New Orleans, LCMC Health and LSU Health New Orleans.
The center is expected to create 60 new jobs, paying an average salary of $100,000, plus benefits.
To secure the project, state economic development officials offered Provision Healthcare an incentive package that includes a $1 million performance-based grant, to be paid in five annual installments starting in 2020.
The company also is expected to participate in the state's FastStart workforce development program and use the Quality Jobs program, which provides a cash rebate of up to 6 percent of a company's annual payroll for as long as a decade.
Provision Healthcare also is pursuing federal New Markets Tax Credits.
"We’re proud that New Orleans will be a vital part of the solution for increasing this life-saving capacity," Gov. John Bel Edwards said. "We’ll see our largest city become a stronger health care magnet because of this center. Most importantly, we will see more lives saved in Louisiana.”
Founded in 2005, Provision Healthcare specializes in innovative cancer treatments.
Roughly 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. last year, and the majority of patients were treated with radiation therapy. Interest in proton therapy has risen since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2001, but some medical experts have questioned its results for treating some cancers.
Unlike X-rays, which can transfer energy to healthy tissues between a tumor and the body's surface, proton beams can hit a target while sparing healthy tissues from the treatment's side effects, according to the National Cancer Institute.