LEWISTON — Central Maine Medical Center’s new, state-of-the-art, comprehensive cancer treatment center is set to open in less than a month, promising to improve both the hospital’s capacity and quality of care.

The Cancer Care Center will bring CMMC’s surgical oncology, radiation oncology and chemotherapy units together under one roof, an improvement for patients who walk across campus to access cancer services on opposite ends.

The need for two new linear accelerators — machines used to target radiation at tumors with pinpoint accuracy — was partly responsible for the construction of the cancer center. CMMC’s current linear accelerators have become outdated, and new models are too large to fit in the same space.

Totaling $4.2 million, the two new linear accelerators are the most striking examples of the center’s cutting-edge treatment technology. Both are estimated to last just 10 years before replacements are necessary, according to John Hamilton, vice president for oncology and surgical services at Central Maine Healthcare, CMMC’s parent company.

“We have a lot of capabilities with these new machines to expand our capabilities and delivering new or higher-end treatments as those come online,” he said. “This is a long-term investment, and we’re very, very excited about it.

John Hamilton, vice president for oncology and surgical services, provides details about the linear accelerator Thursday during the opening for the Cancer Care Center at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Linear accelerators aim radiation at cancer tumors with pinpoint accuracy during radiation therapy. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The center also boasts 24 bays for chemotherapy infusions, five more than the hospital currently has. They are in an aesthetically appealing, naturally lit space. While receiving treatment, patients will have access to TV, Wi-Fi and radio to help pass the time.

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It’s a sharp contrast to the hospital’s treatment facilities.

“Our current state is very closed off, very dark, kind of a dreary older space,” Hamilton said.

The space is slightly curved, mirroring the double helix shape of DNA.

“Helix represents not only science, but life and hope,” said Hector Tarraza, chief oncology institute physician.

The design and functionality of the infusion area was especially important when creating the center’s designs.

“Our staff bonds to these patients tremendously,” Hamilton said. “You can imagine seeing somebody on a daily basis or weekly basis or monthly basis for years on end, they really become a part of their families. In and of itself, we wanted to provide a space that is the best place away from home.”

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Peter Wright, left, senior vice president of operations for Central Maine Medical Center, and Dr. Hector Tarraza walk Thursday through the infusion suites during the opening ceremony for the Cancer Care Center at the Lewiston hospital. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

CMMC sees over 100 patients each day for cancer care, according to Hamilton, with about 8,000 radiation treatments performed every year.

The Dempsey Center, a Lewiston-based nonprofit organization that provides free support services for people with cancer and their families, will also have a resource center on the first floor of the building.

Last week, Hamilton brought a Boston-based oncologist physician interested in working at CMMC on a tour of the facility.

“He was absolutely wild and stunned,” Hamilton recalled. “You won’t go anywhere else in New England and find a nicer cancer care center. We went and traveled to a lot of them to look and see what we wanted to do. You will not find a better place.”

The new cancer center will additionally benefit Central Maine Healthcare’s regional cancer treatment facilities in Bridgton and Rumford by bringing more specialized staff into the hospital system, said Peter Wright, vice president of operations for CMMC and president of Bridgton and Rumford hospitals. Specialists hired at the new cancer center will also work in the regional hospitals.

“With the program that we have, we’re able to rotate super specialists … out into all of our markets, so we can bring that level of subspecialty,” he said. “Pretty much everything that’s done here (in Lewiston), with the exception of the radiation oncology, can be done in Bridgton and Rumford.”

“That’s even more important because … from Bridgton and Rumford, it’s an hour’s drive,” he said. “People with cancer are some of the sickest people in our community. We don’t want them to have to drive an hour two, three times a week. So those satellite outposts that we have at each of the regional hospitals is tremendously important to bring the care locally and bring that level of expertise locally.”

The $37 million center was built by Bateman Partners, a commercial real estate developer based in Portland. The hospital will lease the center over the next 20 years.

Originally proposed in 2019, the state approved CMMC’s proposal in 2020, with construction beginning later that year. The cancer center is planning to begin patient care June 6.

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