Executive Director Message

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Every New Year brings with it new ideas, new challenges and new promises. As we stand at the very beginning of a new decade, it is appropriate for us to look back at the progress made and our goals for the future.

As a pioneer in proton therapy, we have been and will continue to be at the forefront of new technology, advancements in research and life-saving clinical trials. More than 8,500 proton patients have been treated at UFHPTI, including more than 1,800 pediatric patients. In fact, over the past decade, we have more experience in pediatric proton therapy than anywhere else in the country and remain in the top five proton therapy centers worldwide for number of patients treated.  

With the start of patient treatments in our compact proton therapy gantry, Proteus®ONE, I’m encouraged to know that in 2020 and beyond, more patients and more types of cancer will be able to benefit from proton therapy.

Our ongoing resolution and promise to you is that we will continue to help patients and future generations become cancer-free with a better quality of life.

 

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Dr. Nancy P. Mendenhall Named UF Health Cancer Center’s 2019 High-Writer

Congratulations to UF Health Proton Therapy Institute medical director, Nancy P. Mendenhall, MD, for receiving the UF Health Cancer Center’s 2019 High-Writer Award. The award recognizes Dr. Mendenhall’s leadership in research and cutting-edge care for her role as the lead investigator of the highest enrolling cancer-relevant clinical trials within the UF Health medical system.

As medical director, Dr. Mendenhall oversees the research conducted at UFHPTI, including several clinical trials to treat more than 20 types of cancer. She and her team of clinical researchers have published over 150 articles in medical journals that report on patient outcomes, treatment techniques and efficacy of proton therapy.

Dr. Mendenhall is currently lead investigator on three clinical trials at UFHPTI – an outcome tracking project, a trial investigating quality of life and side effects from proton therapy vs. IMRT for prostate cancer, and a prospective study comparing outcomes of proton and photon radiation in prostate cancer.

To learn more about these and other clinical trials being performed at UFHPTI, click here.  

 

Santa Joe Delivers Donation for Children

Santa made an un-seasonal stop at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute this month to spread more Christmas cheer to last throughout the year. Inspired by the children at UFHPTI and his late brother, the “original” Santa in the family, proton alum Joe McGee works throughout the Holiday season as a professional Santa in the Atlanta area. Joe generously puts aside the proceeds he earns as Santa Joe and has returned to UFHPTI every January since 2014 to deliver a donation for the Children’s Fund.

This year, Joe mentioned that people have caught on to his mission and have donated above and beyond to benefit what he has named, “The Santa David Children’s Fund,” in honor of his brother. The funds he and his wife, Dawn, have shared over the last five years have directly impacted hundreds of children and their families by supporting various programs, child life staff and activities that aim to make treatment easier for even the youngest of children and allow them to enjoy being kids.

Santa Joe also makes an appearance every December at UFHPTI to hear the children’s Christmas wishes and deliver presents. 

“If I can bring joy to one precious little one, then it’s all worth it,” said Joe.

The patients at UFHPTI created an original painting to gift Santa Joe for his generosity, time and talent. You can book a Santa Joe appearance in the Atlanta area by contacting him at www.facebook.com/santajoemcgee or email at santajoemcgee@gmail.com.

Research Shows Benefits of Protons

How proton therapy works

New research shows patients receiving simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation had fewer hospitalizations when they received proton therapy compared to conventional X-ray radiation therapy. What’s more, patients in the study had similar cure rates meaning that proton therapy was found to be as effective as conventional radiation with less costly side effects.

The researchers studied almost 1,500 patients with lung, brain, head and neck, gastrointestinal and gynecological cancers. Even though the patients receiving proton therapy were significantly older, they experienced two-thirds less adverse events associated with hospitalizations during the first 90-days of treatment. Proton patients were also more likely to be able to carry on work-related activities during and after their treatments.

The results of this study are significant because they support the value of proton therapy by demonstrating an improvement in quality of life and outcomes for cancer patients while providing value-based care for Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers. 

The full article can be viewed in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

AmazonSmile

Did you know that you can help the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute provide life-saving care every time you shop? AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is, when you shop through AmazonSmile and select Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Inc. as your charity organization, Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases to UFHPTI. 

If you already shop on Amazon or would like to contribute, please consider bookmarking smile.amazon.com and selecting us as your charity benefactor. From resources for clinical research to funding for patient support programs, every gift big or small can help UFPTI deliver the best possible outcomes and experience for our patients.

 

Executive Director Message

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We are capping off the decade with a commencement – the start of patient treatments in our compact proton therapy gantry, Proteus®ONE. This singular event is the culmination of three years of planning, constructing, installing and commissioning. It has been made possible through the efforts of a large team of highly trained men and women from many organizations. I’d like to acknowledge, thank, and congratulate all who were involved in this achievement. Vendors who planned and built the 10,000-sq.-ft. expansion are Walker Architects, Inc., and Gilbane Building Company. The proton therapy system was manufactured, installed and commissioned by IBA. The project was managed by the University of Florida Planning, Design & Construction Division. Special thanks to our staff members Bradlee Robbert, director of operations, and Jason Smith, director of facilities, who managed day-to-day progress of the project and our medical physics team members who managed the commissioning of our newest proton therapy device.

This monumental effort demonstrates the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute’s long-term commitment to help people to be cured of cancer so they can go on to live life to the fullest.

 

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Patient Treatments Begin in Proteus®ONE

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute began treating patients this month in the new, single-room proton therapy system – known as the Proteus®ONE manufactured by IBA – that was installed last fall. It is the centerpiece of a multiphase $39 million expansion and upgrade project started in 2016 that improves treatment efficiency and technology.

The 10,000-square-foot expansion includes both an accelerator, used to speed up the protons, and a treatment gantry equipped with pencil beam scanning – an advanced delivery technique.  The facility now has five treatment rooms – four gantries and one fixed beam room – and two accelerators used to speed up the protons – a synchrocyclotron dedicated to the new treatment room and a cyclotron that powers the original four treatment rooms.

Phase 3 will begin soon and involves the installation of a dedicated pencil beam scanning nozzle in one original gantry. Once completed, estimated in 2021, the Institute will have all five treatment rooms in operation and the ability to treat 25 percent more patients.

The addition of pencil beam scanning enables the treatment of more types of cancer using a thin beam of protons that is steered one layer at a time to conform to the exact shape, size and depth of the treatment area. The Institute has one of the most versatile proton therapy systems in the world. Each delivery technique – double scattering and pencil beam scanning – enables physicians to use the optimal treatment delivery customized for each patient.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses protons rather than traditional X-rays. It targets tumors and cancer cells more precisely. This means less damage to surrounding tissue which results in a lower risk of side effects and a better quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is the regional resource for proton therapy. It has been open in Jacksonville since 2006 and has delivered 288,000 proton treatments to more than 8,500 cancer patients from Jacksonville and 33 countries.

Steven Fitzgerald: Patient One in Proteus®ONE

Steven Fitzgerald is optimistic. He’s feeling pretty great and pretty lucky, so far. As of December 5, he’s halfway through a course of proton therapy, delivered with pencil beam scanning at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville to put an end to a stubborn brain tumor.

His craniopharyngioma was first diagnosed in 2014 and treated with surgery near his home in New York. At that time, his physician said there was a chance the tumor could grow back. Steven researched treatment options and learned that the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, has excellent success rates treating this type of tumor. Taking matters into his own hands, he moved to Ocala, Florida, in October 2015 with his wife and newborn daughter to be near the Institute should the tumor recur. His parents moved to Palm Coast, Florida, to be nearby, too.

In August, Steven began experiencing symptoms, including vision loss. He immediately went into surgery at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, to remove the tumor that was pressing on his optic nerve. After a short recovery period, he started proton therapy in Jacksonville in November, commuting from his parents’ home for daily treatment. On the weekends he goes home to Ocala to see his wife and now 4-year-old daughter.

On December 9th, Steven was the first patient to be treated in the Institute’s new gantry – a Proteus®ONE single-room proton therapy system installed in a 10,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the facility. He is scheduled to complete his course of proton therapy on December 26 with a high degree of confidence and hope that the tumor never returns.

The Lastinger Family Foundation Creates Endowment for Pediatric Care

An exceptional gift from The Lastinger Family Foundation of St. Augustine, FL, has created the Lastinger Family Foundation Endowment for Pediatric Care at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. 

The fund will provide support for the care of pediatric patients and their families at the Institute. Support generated by this endowment will help our pediatric patients and their families in many ways, but in particular, through the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s Pediatric and Child Life Program.

Mr. Allen and Mrs. Delores Lastinger, Officers of the Lastinger Family Foundation, were motivated to make a gift to help our youngest patients when they observed members of our pediatric team working with children and their families. Our staff is challenged daily to help pediatric patients and their families cope with treatment and the multitude of circumstances that a diagnosis of cancer can create. Our team knows that battling cancer at a young age extends to the entire family, and that families who have a child undergoing treatment may have economic challenges, logistical issues, difficulties with scheduling tutoring, and may even have to consider relocating for several weeks in order to secure the best treatment possible. We strive to provide support for our families that allows both the patient and their family to focus on treatment.

Private philanthropy is vital to the services provided by UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, especially services that create special moments and memories for patients and families. “This very generous gift from the Lastinger Family Foundation will truly advance and support our work with our pediatric patients,” says Executive Director Stuart Klein. “We are incredibly grateful to Allen, Delores, and the Lastinger Family Foundation for their endorsement of our program.”

IJPT Indexed in PubMed

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The official journal of the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG), the International Journal of Particle Therapy, is now indexed in PubMed Central, beginning with the Winter 2016 Carbon Ion Special Issue. Launched in 2014, the journal’s mission is to provide a preferred venue for disseminating the most up-to-date research in proton, light-ion and heavy charged-particle therapy.

PTCOG is the non-profit, worldwide organization of scientists and professionals interested in proton, light-ion and heavy charged-particle radiotherapy. The mission of PTCOG is to promote science, technology and practical clinical application of particle therapy through continuing education, international conferences and scientific meetings, with the ultimate goal of improving treatment of cancer to the highest possible standards in radiation therapy.

PubMed Central is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM).

“We are extremely proud of IJPT’s achievements thus far,” said Nancy Mendenhall, MD, FASTRO, editor-in-chief of the IJPT. “In particular, our acceptance by the National Library of Medicine – which utilizes a meticulous selection process examining our scientific and editorial quality and impact – reflects our important role in the overall advancement of particle therapy research.”

Since its founding, IJPT has received manuscripts from nearly 300 prominent radiation oncologists, physicists, and dosimetrists from 200 institutions around the world. IJPT is a quarterly, open access journal that does not charge any article submission or processing fees. Articles are also digitally archived by Scopus, Portico, J-Gate, EBSCOhost, Google Scholar, and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Visit https://www.ptcog.ch/ for more information on the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group. Visit https://theijpt.org/ to view all issues of IJPT and for more information on the journal.

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About This Newsletter

The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.

 

Keep In Touch

It is easy to stay in touch with us online at floridaproton.org . Look at the top right corner of the homepage for Facebook , Twitter and YouTube icons, click and join us in the social media conversation. Also on the right side of the homepage there is a button for VTOC Patient Portal . Click here to open your secure account, view your records, complete clinical trial questionnaires and communicate with your nurse case manager.

 

Knowing how you are feeling during and after treatment is essential to providing you the best care possible and contributes to the care of future patients.