Santa Joe delivers donation


Joe McGee was inspired to be a Santa by the children at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and the memory of his late brother who was the “original” Santa in his family. As a proton alum, he has generously made a special visit each December since 2014 to hear the children’s Christmas wishes and deliver presents. As a professional Santa in the Atlanta area, he sets aside the proceeds from his appearances and returns in January to deliver a donation to the UFPTI for the Children Fund. We thank him for his gift of time, talent and treasure. You can book him for a Santa appearance in the Atlanta area by contacting him at or email at

Message from Stuart Klein, Executive Director


People, especially those who go above and beyond the expected, make the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute a special place. In this month’s newsletter, you will read about exceptional actions by remarkable individuals who put others before themselves and make the world a better place.

On behalf of all of us here at the institute, best wishes to you and your loved ones for a happy holiday season.


Stuart Klein

2015 Excellence Award Honoree: Jeff Rexford


The first ever UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Award for Excellence was presented to Jeff Rexford, IBA Site Manager, during a ceremony last month. IBA is the manufacturer of the proton therapy system and Jeff leads its staff of on-site engineers who operate and maintain the system. Beginning in 2006 when Jeff was named site manager, and throughout his tenure, he has demonstrated a commitment to excellence that goes above and beyond the call of duty. 

Jeff is the most knowledgeable in-house expert on what is widely considered within the health care industry the most complex piece of medical equipment in use today. He is the reason that the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute system has the best performance of all IBA systems. When issues arise, Jeff and his team are unstoppable in resolving the issue, often developing creative solutions that are unconventional, but effective. The system performance and reliability makes it possible for the facility to treat, on average, 100 patients each weekday, from 6:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. 

“I am privileged and honored to know him as a friend and I truly admire his many contributions to UFHPTI’s past and future success,” said Stuart Klein, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Executive Director, in remarks made during the award ceremony.

The award was established to show appreciation for an individual’s exemplary service and to inspire others within the proton family to the same level of excellence. The honoree is someone who has made a significant contribution to the culture of excellence and patient care at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Anyone within the proton family, for example, employees, vendors, volunteers, or philanthropists, is eligible for consideration for the award. The individual who receives the award demonstrates the hallmarks of excellence: expertise, consistency, innovation, leadership and generosity.

Zane Beadles is a Walter Payton Man of the Year Finalist

ZaneandStuart.JPGYou can help our friend, Jacksonville Jaguars player Zane Beadles, win the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. All you have to do is use the hashtag #BeadlesWPMOYChallenge in your social media posts now through December 31. The NFL player with the most hashtag mentions will win a donation to fund his charitable activities.

Zane is a generous philanthropist who has taken a special interest in helping the children being treated at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and their families. He has a charitable organization, the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation, that focuses on supporting the journey of young people going through life-changing medical experiences.

Fun and Fellowship

Over the past few years he has hosted multiple family fun night activities including the most recent holiday party on December 10. Children and parents were treated to “breakfast for dinner” with pancakes, bacon and other delicious goodies on the menu. Then everyone was invited to decorate a gingerbread house using icing, candy and their imaginations. Zane along with his teammate AJ Caan and members of the Jaguars cheerleading squad The Roar visited with the children, signed autographs and posed for photos. 

For 11-year-old Max Adams, a patient from the United Kingdom and Jaguars fan, it was a thrill to meet the players. He started following the Jaguars when they played in London and attended the game there this season. He has also watched a few games at Everbank Field while he’s here on treatment.

Max said that the holiday party was a great way for all the pediatric families, especially those far from home, to get together for fun and fellowship. 


Patient Spotlight: Wendy Anthony

IMG_1279.JPG“I like to tell my story,” said 12-year-old Wendy Anthony as she described how she made friends with other cancer patients at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “I introduce myself and ask if they would like to go to the art table,” she explained.  She got to know the other patients by sharing her story with them about being treated for a rare brain tumor called craniopharyngioma, “I tell them I had surgery. Surgery. Treatment.” And she asked them about their cancer story. 

Because of her positive and friendly attitude, she touched the hearts and minds of other cancer patients on treatment and befriended many of them -- men, women and children. She decided to congratulate her friends when they “graduated” from treatment and made a personalized poster complete with drawings, pictures and words of encouragement. “We’d like to do it for everyone,” said her father David Anthony. “With so many graduates, it’s hard to do them all. We are making them for people who have touched our lives while we’ve been here.”

It started with a warm and welcoming greeting by a prostate cancer patient they met at the gym at Third and Main, the nearby apartment complex that houses many of the proton therapy patients. “He was the first person who greeted us, who told us what a great place we were in and made us feel comfortable,” said David. As they met more patients, the circle of friends grew. “We met a lot of inspiring people, but Wendy’s been the biggest inspiration to me,” said David. He said that all the prostate guys were super generous and kind to Wendy. She helped them deal with their cancer diagnosis by seeing how bravely she handled hers. 

“It’s just a great atmosphere that allows the best of people to come out,” said David describing the proton therapy institute. “I attribute that to UFHPTI. All the staff members are so positive it’s infectious.”

Wendy offered some advice for people to make their proton treatments go better, “I just go with the flow and do what the doctors say you have to do.” She said by concentrating on that, you don’t have to worry.

UF Health Proton Therapy Institute receives International Award


JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development arm of the JAX Chamber, during its quarterly luncheon on December 16 presented a 2015 International Award to UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. 

Each year since 2007 JAXUSA honors companies and individuals that contribute to Northeast Florida’s international growth. “As international barriers continue to be broken it is important to position Northeast Florida as a prime place to expand or relocate international business,” said Jerry Mallot, JAXUSA President. “These awards help us recognize those companies and individuals who have already seen why this region is an outstanding location for their business operations.”

A selection committee comprised of the JAXUSA President, International Senior Director, JAXPORT’s Chief Commercial Officer and a representative from the international and/or logistics community review eligible nominees and determine the award winners. Past winners include Novabone (2007), COACH (2011), Stellar (2007 & 2014) and Jaguars President Mark Lamping (2013). The selection of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute marks the first time a health care provider has received the International Award.

“We are honored to receive this recognition,” said Stuart Klein, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Executive Director. “Proton therapy is often the only treatment option for many kinds of tumors, especially those located in or near critical organs like the brain, heart or lungs. Our ability to provide treatment to patients from around the globe is possible thanks to our expert professional medical team and to our community partners.”

Since opening in 2006, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has treated more than 6,000 cancer patients, who are from the local community, 49 states and 30 countries. The Institute has agreements in place with Norway, Quebec and the United Kingdom to treat cancer patients who need proton therapy. Additional international patient growth is expected from China following a proton therapy symposium in June 2015 hosted jointly with the leading radiation oncology association in China. Over the last five years, the pediatric proton program has grown to the largest in the world with more than 25 children on treatment each day. Since opening, the facility has treated more than 1,000 children.

UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit, academic health facility. The facility is active in the economic development and medical tourism efforts in the City of Jacksonville. It hosts educational tours of the facility for small groups including medical professionals, business groups, government officials, international visitors and others. Facility tours are open to patients, caregivers and the general public twice weekly. It supports nonprofits such as the Ronald McDonald House, the American Cancer Society, Wolfson Children's Hospital, the American Lung Association, the Free to Breathe Association, and the 26.2 with Donna. Employees and patients often participate in community runs and events such as the Riverside Arts 5K, the Gate River Run, the Corporate Run, and more.

This year UF Health Proton Therapy Institute was named one of four Florida Cancer Centers of Excellence – the first year of the state-designated award – and it earned the American College of Radiology accreditation seal – one of three proton therapy facilities in the country with this distinction.


Santa Claus makes a special delivery

IMG_5062.jpgJoy was in the air on December 17 at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute as Santa Claus made a surprise visit. He delivered a bundle of toys to 70 children – cancer patients and their siblings. Many have temporarily relocated to Jacksonville for the three-month treatment, some from as far away as the United Kingdom. Proton therapy staff dressed as elves helped distribute the gifts. Joe McGee, prostate cancer survivor and proton alum from the Atlanta area, made Santa come to life.


Message from Stuart Klein, Executive Director


At this time of year, we set aside time to give thanks for the people who make a difference in our lives. It could be a family member, friend, loved one or someone in our community such as a military veteran, first responder or teacher. We are surrounded by people, seen and unseen, who impact our lives in a positive way every day.

This month we acknowledge our radiation therapists during National Radiologic Technology Week (November 8 - 14). This team of highly skilled professionals delivers exceptional care to patients every day. They expertly operate the proton therapy, IMRT, SBRT, MRI and CT equipment for safe and accurate patient treatment. Their commitment to excellence is recognized in the industry and serves as a model for other proton therapy centers. We are fortunate to have such an experienced team of people trained in proton therapy. For more than seven years, we have been able to treat the maximum number of patients possible because our radiation therapists alternate working two shifts. They're among the first to arrive at 6 a.m. and the last to leave at 11 p.m., or sometimes later. We thank our radiation therapists for their dedicated and compassionate care.

On behalf of everyone at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.


Stuart L. Klein

Survivor Spotlight: Joe Solsona


By Theresa Edwards Makrush

Helping military veterans and their spouses navigate the Veterans Affairs medical system is a service that Joe Solsona has developed into a nonprofit organization called National Association Veterans & Families - Veterans Support Center. It started in 2008 when his aunt needed homecare and was having difficulty applying for VA benefits. Through that experience, he discovered a tremendous need for help among veterans in similar situations.

"We didn't realize there was such a huge void," said Joe. "It has morphed into something that is much huger than I could have imagined." Since formalizing the nonprofit and becoming accredited with the VA to provide the service to veterans and spouses, the NAVF has handled 30,000 claims and has had only two claims denied. The organization regularly has referrals from the offices of local U.S. congressmen and attorneys to handle claims for Agent Orange, PTSD, homecare and assisted living.

When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, Joe applied his health care system navigation skills to his own case. He talked to men who had been treated for prostate cancer, including two physicians he knew, who told him about having robotic surgery, brachytherapy, and radiation. He weighed the pros and cons of each treatment and chose proton therapy at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute because, he said, it had similar effectiveness in controlling the cancer but with fewer side effects.

Following hormone therapy, in February 2015 he started eight weeks - 39 treatments - of proton therapy. While on treatment Joe said he experienced fatigue and cut back on the number of hours he worked, going from 14 hours to about seven hours a day. He also noticed that he was more sensitive to the hot weather, but he was still able to compete in skeet, though for shorter periods than usual.

Joe, who turns 67 years old next month, had his six-month follow-up appointment the Wednesday before Halloween and is doing well, though is still recovering his energy level. Yet, he is not concerned for himself, but for others who are facing a cancer diagnosis and could benefit from proton therapy. Through his advocacy, a spouse of someone he knows is being treated with protons for breast cancer. "I feel it's very important for the public, veterans and spouses to be aware of what is available," he said.

November is national awareness month for lung cancer and pancreatic cancer


By Theresa Edwards Makrush

During November, advocacy groups turn our attention to two of the deadliest cancers in the U.S. - lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. Symptoms can be mistaken for other more benign illnesses before lung cancer is diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Pancreas cancer is even more challenging since symptoms typically do not occur until the cancer has spread to other organs.

Treatments are usually a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Radiation is often used following surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells. It is sometimes used before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor. For inoperable (unresectable) tumors, radiation is used with curative, or in some cases palliative, intent.

Facts and Stats
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in American men and women, accounting for 13 percent of all new cancer diagnoses each year and is the leading cause of cancer death.1 Pancreatic cancer in comparison is less common, accounting for three percent of all new cancer diagnoses each year, yet it is the third most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.2

Early evidence for proton therapy in treating lung and pancreatic cancers suggests that patients can expect similar cure rates to conventional treatment methods, but will experience fewer treatment-related complications. Unlike X-rays, proton beams can be conformed to the size and shape of the treatment area to minimize or avoid damage to surrounding sensitive organs. For lung cancer patients this means a reduced risk of developing treatment-related pneumonia, pain with swallowing, and cardiac disease.3 For pancreatic cancer patients it means a reduced risk of developing treatment-related serious bowel or stomach issues.4

Lung cancer treated with protons     

Both small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are the subject of clinical research at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Recent published articles in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics, Clinical Lung Cancer and Acta Oncologica reported on early outcomes of patients following proton therapy for stage II & III NSCLC and limited-stage small cell lung cancer. The researchers concluded that the combination of proton therapy and chemotherapy can provide patients with an aggressive treatment that is less toxic than conventional X-ray radiation.5, 6, 7

Clinical trials open for enrollment to eligible lung cancer patients include one for a shorter treatment approach for stage II & III non-small cell lung cancer and another for a shorter treatment approach for stage I non-small cell lung cancer.

For more information about proton therapy and lung cancer, visit our cancers treated page.

Pancreatic cancer treated with protons

One of the important areas of treatment, clinical trials and study at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is pancreatic cancer. The goal is to improve patient outcomes for a disease that is often challenging to treat successfully. An article published in the International Journal of Particle Therapy reported early outcomes following proton therapy for patients with pancreatic cancer who were not eligible for surgical removal of the disease due to the position of the tumor. 8

Patients were treated with both chemotherapy and proton therapy. Significantly, the study reports that patients were able to tolerate the treatment well with no severe gastrointestinal side effects during treatment and in the two years following. This suggests that there is an opportunity to safely intensify the treatment, which may lead to improved survival rates. Two clinical trials are currently open to enroll eligible pancreatic cancer patients: postoperative proton therapy in surgically removed (resected) pancreatic cancers; and preoperative proton therapy in pancreatic cancers that can be partially removed (borderline or marginally resectable).

For more information about proton therapy and pancreatic cancer, visit our cancers treated page.


1. Seer Stat Fact Sheets: Lung and Bronchus Cancer. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2015.

2. Seer Stat Fact Sheets: Pancreas Cancer. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2015.

3. Image-Guided Proton Therapy for Lung Cancer and Thymoma. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2015.

4. Proton Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2015

5. Hoppe BS, Flampouri S, Henderson RH, Pham D, Bajwa AA, D’Agostino H, Huh SN, Li Z, Mendenhall NP, Nichols RC. Proton therapy with concurrent chemotherapy for non-small-cell lung cancer; technique and early results. Clin Lung Cancer. 2012 Sep; 13(5):352-8.

6. Colaco RJ, Huh S, Nichols RC, Morris CG, D’Agostino H, Flampouri S, Li Z, Pham DC, Bajwa AA, Hoppe BS. Dosimetric rationale and early experience at UFPTI of thoracic proton therapy and chemotherapy in limited-stage small cell lung cancer. Acta Oncologica. 2013 Feb; 52(3): 506-13.

7. Hoppe BS, Henderson RH, Pham D, Cury J, Bajwa AA, Morris CG, D’Agostino H, Flampouri S, Huh S, Li Z, McCook B, Nichols RC. A phase II trial of concurrent chemotherapy and proton therapy for stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer: Results and reflections following early closure of a single institution study. Int J Radiation Oncol Biol Phys. Article in press Nov. 8, 2015.

8. Sachsman S, Nichols RC, Morris CG, Zaiden R, Johnson EA, Awad Z, Bose D, Ho MW, Huh SN, Li Z, Kelly P, Hoppe BS. Proton therapy and concomitant capecitabine for non-metastatic unresectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma. International Journal of Particle Therapy. Winter 2014;1(3):692-701.


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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