Health fairs to kick off 10th anniversary celebration

FPT_10yrs_FullColorCMYK_rsg_0_0.jpgAs part of the 10-year anniversary of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, we’re throwing three health fairs to celebrate your continued health and the advancement of proton therapy. Each event will include fun games and prizes, massages, information on living a healthy lifestyle from a number of community resources and UF Health representatives, and how and why clinical research plays an important role at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Each event will have opportunities to raise support for these research efforts.

All alumni, family and friends are invited to attend. The first health fair will take place Thursday, September 15, from 12 – 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on the Jacksonville Riverfront.

Other health fairs are scheduled for November 17, 2016, and January 26, 2017.

Advanced technology for prostate cancer patients available at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

SpaceOar before and after_0.jpgThe targeted, precise treatment available through proton therapy has helped countless individuals treat cancer with little to no damage to surrounding healthy tissue. UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is on the forefront of another advancement to further help prostate cancer patients have a better quality of life during and post treatment.

The SpaceOAR System, a soft gel-like material that temporarily increases the space between the prostate and the rectum, is now available for qualified prostate cancer patients. By separating the prostate from the rectum, the SpaceOAR System further reduces or eliminates the chance of the radiation dose reaching the rectum. Other technology used for this purpose includes rectal balloons that are inserted prior to treatment.

 SpaceOAR hydrogel is put in place prior to treatment through a minimally invasive procedure. It stays in the body for three months during radiation treatment and is then naturally absorbed and cleared in the patient’s urine in about six months. The temporary gel spacer is safe to use in the body and is mostly made of water.

Prospective prostate patients will be deemed medically eligible for the SpaceOAR System by their physician after consulting and imaging studies have been completed. For more information, talk to your physician and visit

Providing comprehensive family-centered pediatric oncology care

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

Noah Edgar and his parents traveling to Jacksonville from England for treatment.

Traveling to a different town, state or even country to receive treatment for their child’s cancer is a difficult experience for any parent. Extra pressure is on parents who must navigate unknown waters in an unfamiliar place often without their support system at home. Recently, published research shows that while traveling to receive proton beam therapy is not without difficulties, the programs and resources available in the United States are clearly helpful in facilitating the adjustment and turn what could be a negative experience into a positive one.

The article “The ‘radiation vacation’: Parents’ experiences of traveling to have their children’s brain tumors treated with proton beam therapy” discusses insights from research on the experiences of parents from the United Kingdom whose children have had brain tumors treated with proton therapy in the United States. Data analyzed from participating parents, many of whom brought their children to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, suggests that the time during proton therapy appears more positive than the periods before or after it. These findings are remarkable and contrary to previous research that suggests the time during cancer treatment is psychologically hardest for parents.

The findings expressed in this article reflect testimonies from parents with children being treated at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and validate the investment we make in our pediatric social services program. We know that pediatric tumors and cancer impact the whole family, which is why we are focused on providing holistic family-centered care. The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute employs a full-time Child Life Specialist who focuses on the well-being of each child throughout treatment. Behind-the-scenes pretreatment tours, age-appropriate videos, activities and interactive iPad applications help children feel more comfortable before their treatment and eliminate surprises and anxiety from both the patient and the parents. Ongoing psychological assessment and supportive counseling is provided by our dedicated pediatric social worker in addition to school advocacy, and a vibrant adolescent and young adult program.

Aside from professional support, the article also found that social interaction and distractions with other families are an important part of finding benefits during treatment. With 90 percent of the children treated at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute coming from outside of Jacksonville, including a large number from other countries, providing resources, organizing outings, family dinners and programming for pediatric patients and their families is a large part of the focus our team provides alongside cutting-edge cancer treatment. 

Over the past 10 years, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has treated more pediatric patients than any other proton center in the world. Our goal for the next 10 years and beyond is to continue to provide the highest standard of care across every spectrum and to help all that come through our doors have the best possible experience throughout treatment and beyond.

ASTRO honors two UF Health Proton Therapy Institute physicians

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

Dr. & Dr. Mendenhall  1_0.jpgFor their dedication and contribution to the advancement of radiation oncology, Dr. Nancy Mendenhall, medical director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, and Dr. William Mendenhall, physician at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, were named American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Fellows. Nancy and William Mendenhall join eight other distinguished ASTRO members in the 2016 class of fellows.

The ASTRO Fellows designation honors individuals who have significantly added to the field of radiation oncology in the areas of research, education, patient care or service and leadership. Designees also have been a member of ASTRO for at least 15 years, giving the equivalent of 10 years of service to ASTRO through committee service and similar activities.

With a combined 50 years of experience in radiation oncology, both Nancy and William Mendenhall are internationally recognized for their contributions to the field. They are frequent contributors to medical journals and are regularly invited to speak at national and international oncology conferences.

 “We congratulate Drs. Nancy and William Mendenhall for receiving this well-deserved, prestigious honor from ASTRO. Each of the qualifying attributes for this appointment speak to their tremendous skill, passion and commitment,” said Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “Through their leadership and dedication to radiation oncology and proton therapy, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has achieved both a national and international reputation for providing cutting-edge, quality care and research.”

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is committed to delivering advanced, noninvasive cancer treatment in a way that takes the entire patient into account so they can have the best chance to beat cancer and live life to the fullest. Exemplifying this approach to treatment, Nancy and William Mendenhall have played a critical role in developing a proton therapy program that is among the top-rated cancer centers in Florida and the only proton therapy center in Florida accredited in radiation oncology by the American College of Radiology.

Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngWe are very fortunate that 12 years ago, before we were even open, a benefactor stepped forward to establish the Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic, a golf tournament to raise money for our clinical research program. We rely on the proceeds from this charitable event to supplement our research budget. Here is an example of why funding research is so important.

Recently we published a study on breast cancer that initially only had funding for 12 patients, but needed to expand to 18 to allow an even number of left-sided and right-sided breast cancer patients to enroll in the study. We reallocated funds from our operating budget to make it possible to expand the study. This research led to the discovery of critical evidence that proton therapy spares all patients’ hearts and lungs from large doses of radiation. If it were not for the additional funds, this important discovery may have been delayed, or worse, may have never happened.

I hope you will consider supporting our research program this year through sponsoring or participating in the 12th annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic.


Stuart L. Klein

Study: Proton therapy effectively targets breast cancer with curative radiation doses while nearly eliminating radiation to the heart

By Theresa Edwards Makrush

Proton vs photon dose_0.jpgResearchers at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute have reported that for women with breast cancer, proton therapy can significantly reduce and in some cases nearly eliminate the dose to the heart, even when the lymph nodes overlying the heart need to be treated. In addition, proton therapy may reduce the exposure of the lung by 30 percent to 50 percent and provide better dose coverage to the lymph node regions as compared with conventional radiation.

These early results are from a pilot study conducted at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and published last month. Initial Report of a Prospective Dosimetric and Clinical Feasibility Trial Demonstrates Potential of Protons to Increase the Therapeutic Ratio in Breast Cancer Compared with Photons. (May 2016, International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics)

Eighteen women, nine with left-sided breast cancer and nine with right-sided breast cancer, were enrolled in the prospective study and followed for 20 months by lead researcher Julie A. Bradley, M.D., a radiation oncologist at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and faculty member at the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology.

In every patient, the proton plan was superior to the conventional plan in reducing the amount of radiation to the heart and lungs.

To learn more, click to read an interview with Dr. Bradley about the study.

Survivor Spotlight: Proton alum and teammates win national title at USTA Championship

Suprise 11_0.jpg
National Champions Tennis 8.0 Seniors. Honored to play with these guys! An Undefeated Team in 16 Matches. Pictured from l to r: Dickie Anderson, Howard Rugaber, Randy Scott, Mark Levy, Jimmy Parker, Joe Simon, not pictured Ron Hale

A recreational tennis player since his thirties, proton alum (2009) Howard Rugaber didn’t expect that at age 66 he would be a national champion. But, to his surprise, he and his doubles teammates rose through the ranks to win the National USTA 8.0 championships held in Surprise, Ariz., in April.

“I was asked to be on the team in June of last year,” said Howard who lives in St. Simons Island, Ga., where he owns and operates a landscaping company. “A friend of mine who I play tennis with from Columbus, Ga., was putting together a team to beat the other GA teams in the state tournament. When he asked me, I said, ‘I don’t play much doubles, but I’ll be happy to be on the team.’ I learned a lot on the way.”

The way ended up being a state tournament win in Savannah, Ga., that led to a regional tournament win in Dothan, Ala., ending in the national title win in Arizona.

Howard said the team practiced hard between tournaments to be ready for the competitions. Judging by their athletic achievement, you would never know that some of the players had previously had knee replacements, hip replacements, and proton therapy for prostate cancer.

When Howard was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he talked to friends and a fellow tennis player about it and they told him about their success in beating the disease with proton therapy at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. As a University of Florida alum, it was an easy decision for him to have proton therapy in Jacksonville. 

“I was very fortunate. I was kind of a poster child for all the treatments. I had no negatives associated with it,” Howard said. Even with a three-hour round-trip commute to receive daily treatment he maintained his regular schedule. “I worked every day, and I played tennis almost every day. I didn’t really get tired like some people do who get radiation.”

More than six years post-treatment, Howard and his wife Trish, whom he met while in college at UF, enjoy spending long weekends in the Jacksonville area at the beaches in Ponte Vedra and playing tennis with friends.

Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® registration is now open

We invite you to register as a sponsor or player at the 12th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic: October 9-10, 2016. The event will take place at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. A celebratory dinner and silent auction will take place on October 9, 6 p.m., at the World Golf Village Renaissance Hotel. Golf will be played October 10 on both the Slammer & Squire and King & Bear courses. Registration begins on course at 7 a.m. An awards party will be held at the Slammer & Squire Clubhouse immediately following play.

For information on sponsorships and tickets, please visit

The research program at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute

For an overview of the research program, how it works and why it matters, we invite you to watch this online video.

Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngNurses are the most trusted professionals in the United States according to the most recent Gallup survey.1,2  Eighty-five percent of respondents rated nurses as having very high or high “honesty and ethical standards.” In fact, nurses have ranked number one on the list since they were added to the survey in 1999. The bond between patient and nurse is undeniable and never more apparent than at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

May is the traditional time of year that we honor nurses as National Nurses Week is observed May 6-12. Our highly skilled nursing professionals include specialists in adult radiation oncology, pediatric radiation oncology and clinical research. As case managers, nurses are involved from day one in developing every patient’s care plan. They counsel patients on what to expect during treatment and beyond. They set patients at ease by providing knowledgeable answers and effective solutions to health concerns that may develop during or after the course of treatment. It is common for our nurses to go the extra mile to give patients that added bit of comfort, support or encouragement to keep on track with treatment for the best possible outcome. We thank all of our nurses for their commitment to excellence.


Stuart L. Klein


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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.


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It is easy to stay in touch with us online at . 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.