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Celebrating Dr. Laramore's long career in radiation therapy

Celebrating Dr. Laramore's long career in radiation therapy

After a more than 40-year career in radiation oncology, including countless contributions to cancer treatment, Dr. George Laramore has decided to retire in January 2022. Dr. Laramore is the SCCA Proton Therapy Center’s inaugural medical director and the current Peter Wootton Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington. He is board-certified in therapeutic radiology and radiation oncology with proton and neutron radiotherapy expertise. He played a pivotal role in bringing the Proton Therapy Center to Seattle — the first and only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

Innovative technology for Seattle

While on sabbatical in 2006, Dr. Laramore surveyed how proton therapy was being used internationally and evaluated the products of various manufacturers. As an avid traveler, he enjoyed the opportunity to see more of the world while identifying ways to bring innovative technologies home.

At the time, very few places in the U.S. offered this treatment, despite the many benefits for cancer patients. Dr. Laramore was deeply interested in enabling more individualized therapy for cancer patients. Through his research on proton therapy treatment, he learned that the ability to target cancer treatments more selectively, and with higher doses of radiation, significantly reduced the side effects of radiation therapy and potential damage to surrounding tissue, particularly for more sensitive organs.

“I am a physicist by training and became interested in biology as I progressed in my career. Oncology was a natural area of interest, and my goal was to find a specialty that connected to my background in physics,” Dr. Laramore says. “I’ve been able to continue to explore these connections through proton therapy research and fully believe in the power of this technology for optimizing patient treatment.”

The initial proposal to build the center was submitted in 2008, making it the 11th proton therapy center in the nation. Because it was a less common form of treatment, there was less data on the success of proton radiation treatment compared to traditional radiation therapy. It took support from hospital leaders across the country to make it happen. But in 2013, the center treated its first patient, a young adult with a brain tumor, Dr. Laramore recalls.

Proton therapy is an invaluable treatment option for tumors located near vital organs like the heart, brain and lungs, and the center has so far treated more than 3,700 patients. Nationwide, more than 75,000 patients have received proton therapy, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT). Proton therapy is the standard of care for childhood cancers due to the reduced impact on growing organs that could affect young patients for the rest of their lives. Since the opening of the center, Dr. Laramore has seen a significant increase in awareness of proton therapy as a treatment option.

Lifetime Achievement

In 2019, Dr. Laramore received the NAPT Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his decades of pioneering work in particle therapy. Dr. Laramore’s perseverance in bringing proton therapy to the region has helped thousands of cancer patients on their path to remission. 

“Patients frequently tell me how well they were treated during their time at the center and what a wonderful experience they had,” says Dr. Laramore. “I am proud to have worked with great people in this area of patient care.”

During his career, Dr. Laramore served as chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and as the Peter Wootton Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He has pioneered work in neutron radiotherapy and specialized in treating salivary gland tumors, head and neck cancers and prostate cancer. 

Dr. Laramore plans to spend his newfound free time in retirement traveling with his wife, Shelley, and enjoying time with their family. He will also continue to serve as professor emeritus at the University of Washington. He plans to continue to monitor the development of proton therapy and other forms of cancer treatment and looks forward to the progress and possibilities yet to come.

Dr. Laramore is inspired by, and has undoubtedly helped inspire, the new generations of staff members who have joined the team. They are eager to continue this innovative research using new technologies. The oncology community, as well as many of his patients, are so thankful for Dr. Laramore’s many contributions to the field and dedicated care to cancer patients.