A cancer patient undergoes treatment in the Neutron Therapy Treatment Facility, or Cylotron, at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lewis Research Center. After World War II Lewis researchers became interested in nuclear energy for propulsion. The focused their efforts on thermodynamics and strength of materials after radiation. In 1950 an 80-person Nuclear Reactor Division was created, and a cyclotron was built behind the Materials and Structures Laboratory. An in-house nuclear school was established to train these researchers in their new field. NASA cancelled its entire nuclear program in January 1973, just as the cyclotron was about to resume operations after a major upgrade.
In 1975 the Cleveland Clinic Foundation partnered with NASA Lewis to use the cyclotron for a new type of radiation treatment for cancer patients. The cyclotron split beryllium atoms which caused neutrons to be released. The neutrons were streamed directly at the patient’s tumor. The facility had a dual-beam system that could target the tumor both vertically and horizontally. Over the course of five years, the cyclotron was used to treat 1200 patients. It was found to be particularly effective on salivary gland, prostrate, and other tumors. It was not as successful with tumors of the central nervous system. The program was terminated in 1980 as the Clinic began concentrating on non-radiation treatments.