UFPTI’s first patient — one year later

The University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute (UFPTI) marked the one year anniversary of its first patient treated: for Ben Smith, proton therapy was the ideal option.

When he learned he had prostate cancer in April 2005, Ben Smith, a 55 year old aerospace engineer from Florida, analyzed his options and looked for the best treatment. Although his own dad had died from the effects of prostate cancer and his urologist strongly advised him surgery, Smith refused to risk the possible side effects (impotence and incontinence) and sought for a more palatable solution: proton therapy. “The proton beams are so precise; if that’s where you want the radiation to go, that’s where it goes”, he says. “I’m an engineer, so I research everything. After doing all the research, I thought, ‘This is it. This is what I have to have.’”

At that time, UFPTI was not accepting patients yet. But Smith insisted he wanted to be their first: “I told them somebody’s got to do it, and it might as well be me”, he recalls. During pre-treatment testing, a biopsy revealed his cancer had spread, but was still contained in the prostate. Smith began his therapy on August 14, 2006, receiving in eight weeks a total 39 proton therapy treatments. Before each treatment, a rectal balloon was inserted to help isolate the prostate for precise beam focus. In addition, gold markers were placed inside Smith’s prostate to allow each proton beam to precisely reach the diseased cells. During his treatment, Smith, married with two children, enjoyed visits from his family and friends, read, attended some college football games and kept in shape at the local YMCA. Three weeks after his last therapy session, he returned to work.

One year later, Smith has regular blood analyses done and returns to UFPTI for follow-up visits. “Ben is doing great,” says his doctor. “His prostate has shrunk considerably. He has no side effects from his treatments. There is no evidence of disease.” Smith adds that he has moved on from his cancer experience. “When you get [cancer], your vision shrinks and you don’t look too far forward,” he says. “Something like this is very traumatic. But when you are done with it, your vistas slowly increase again, and life is bright and cheerful.” Smith’s tenacity and spirit made a strong impression on his doctor. “Ben is not only a patient — he’s a friend,” he says. “I’m very happy that he’s doing so well. It was a great experience for me, and I’m glad everything worked out so well for him.”

Since that time in 2006, UFPTI has continued to serve scores of patients and to exceed expectations with about 200 patients treated (including 12 pediatric patients), 8.728 fractions (treatments) delivered, and a 98.7% ratio of patients treated to patients scheduled. UFPTI is currently delivering about 60 fractions per day in three treatment rooms. Protocols are open for prostate, sarcoma, brain, head and neck cancers, and for pediatric cancers. In early 2008, protocols will be open for treating bladder, pancreas, colon, liver, breast, and lung cancers. “These new protocols and the anticipated opening of our fourth treatment room later in 2008 will offer new possibilities for many more cancer patients,” says Stuart Klein, Executive Director of UFPTI.

Philadelphia PT center under construction

The five treatment room Roberts Proton Therapy Center, designed to offer a calm and reassuring environment to comfort its patients, is currently being built on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.

The facility, part of the university’s Department of Radiation Oncology, consists of a comprehensive proton therapy facility allowing full association of proton therapy with conventional radiation treatment, currently provided by the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS).

The imposing equipment will operate very quietly and will be hidden behind a wall, and once the patients will be in position for treatment, all they will hear is a gentle gong to let them now the proton beam is being delivered. Indeed, patient comfort is key and efforts are made to create a serene environment and make the treatment rooms as patient-friendly as possible.

PT center in Oklahoma City: 1st PT private practice in the US

The new PT center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, developed by ProCure Treatment Centers and its clinical partners is under construction since May 2007 and will be the first PT private practice in the United States, opening in 2009.

The Oklahoma ProCure Treatment Center will be the first-ever proton therapy cancer treatment center in the United States to be owned and operated by physicians. It will house four treatment rooms and expects its first patients to be treated in summer 2009.

This center results from a partnership between two private Oklahoma City oncology practices — Radiation Medicine Associates and Radiation Oncology Associates — and ProCure Treatment Centers, Inc., an Indiana-based firm specializing in the development of proton therapy centers. “This center will provide greater access to Proton Therapy,” says William C. Goad, M.D., radiation oncologist, co-founder of Radiation Medicine Associates, and one of the physicians who will treat patients at the new center. “Patients who would benefit from Proton Therapy in our area will now have it without having to travel so far and be away from home for so long.” Proton therapy can be especially helpful for patients who have been treated previously with conventional radiation therapy and now have a recurrence of the tumor, he adds.

Senior debt and mezzanine financing were obtained through collaboration with two world-class financial institutions, Fortis and KBC (Belgium). “There are no radiation cancer treatments in the world today as precise and effective as proton therapy,” said Hadley Ford, Chief Executive Officer of ProCure, which is based in Bloomington, Indiana. “Financing our Oklahoma City facility ensures we can provide a world-class cancer treatment facility for the people of this region and utilize world-class therapeutic equipment.”

The center will benefit from the latest proton therapy technology, including a robotic patient positioner, cone beam CT and intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT). The Oklahoma ProCure Treatment Center will employ about 100 full-time staff members, treating patients over two eight-hour shifts per day. Goad concludes: “I am most excited about having the opportunity to provide proton therapy to patients in my practice. As an Oklahoman, I am especially proud of helping provide access to proton therapy in our community.”