NIU's cancer therapy center challenged

Alex Gary

An Indiana-based company that develops proton therapy centers is charging Northern Illinois University with stifling competition in Illinois.

NIU is building a $159.5 million proton therapy center it plans to complete in two years.

Proton therapy is radiation treatment of cancer. Protons are precise, unlike conventional X-rays. They make little impact on the way to the tumor, then explode their energy directly on site. They don’t travel into the patient’s body.

With harm to surrounding tissue kept to a minimum, the intensity of the radiation may be stepped up — doubling the benefit of the blast.

Procure Treatment Centers, which has been involved with five of the seven proton therapy centers operating or under construction in the United States, filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court on July 22 asking for all documents used by NIU in its application for an exemption from the state’s Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. The move usually precedes a lawsuit.

The state health planning board has to approve new hospital projects, but NIU received an exemption from state approval because it is not a health-care facility as defined by state law.

In April, the board voted to deny a similar project by Procure and Central DuPage Hospital, citing the project site’s proximity to the NIU center.

Alex Gary can be reached or at (815) 987-1339.