It’s been two years since state and local leaders announced plans to build an $85 million proton therapy center in Baton Rouge, praised as a way to advance the city’s health district as a cancer treatment destination, but construction has yet to begin on the project.
Those involved in bringing the center to Baton Rouge confirm it’s still in the works, despite challenges along the way that have delayed and scaled back the size and investment of the planned proton center.
“The project is very much alive,” says Steve Hicks, CEO of Provident Resources Group, which is developing the Baton Rouge proton therapy center. “Hopefully by the end of summer we’ll be able to report more details.”
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, one of the groups who announced the proton center in May 2017, also confirms the project is still moving forward, though the chamber deferred any further comment to Provident.
The project got off to a bumpy start in Baton Rouge, with some in the medical community questioning the cost and effectiveness of proton therapy. Baton Rouge General pulled out of a partnership with the proton center in 2017, with CEO Edgardo Tenreiro saying the treatment had “not demonstrated superior outcomes” for most cancers.
Then, in 2018, plans for a similar project in New Orleans fell through, while the Baton Rouge center was delayed and downsized to a $50 million one-room unit, due primarily to projected low reimbursement rates and limited coverage from third-party insurers.
But several institutions as well as state and local leaders have remained committed to the proton center project, including clinical partners Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Our Lady of the Lake and Woman’s Hospital.
Mary Bird executives have said proton therapy is a proven and, in some cases, superior treatment—an assertion backed up by the Willis-Knighton Cancer Center in Shreveport, which has been providing proton therapy since 2014. Many of the nation’s most prestigious cancer centers also have proton therapy centers.