UK boy escapes from deathly brain tumor

A brave young boy has become the first Scottish person to undergo a pioneering cancer treatment in America.

When Aeden Harriet, from Bonhill, began complaining of a sore back and neck, his mother initially put it down to nothing more than growing pains. However, after the nine year-old collapsed at school, the doctors revealed he had a life-threatening brain tumor the size of a tennis ball, which was stopping vital spinal fluids reaching his brain. “He was complaining on and off about a pain in his neck and I would see him wince sometimes. One night he woke up screaming in pain. […] The following day he went to school and I was called to say he had collapsed”, said Linsey Rhodes, Aedan’s mum. She decided to take him to the hospital and was told later that day that her son had a brain tumor.

After a nine-hour operation in the UK, 60% of the tumor was removed, but as Aedan’s future was still uncertain, he was referred to the ProCure Proton Therapy Clinic in Oklahoma, US by the NHS (National Health Service) to have a ground breaking proton therapy treatment. After nine weeks of a life-changing treatment, the tumor seems to have completely disappeared.

Now that he’s home and getting back on his feet, Aedan has been enjoying spending time with his new dog Doodles. Linsey added: “He is taking a lot of medication including steroids, so he has gained some weight. But the doctors advised us to get a dog and he has been taking him out for exercise every day. They have a great bond and love spending time together.”

It can take up to two years to see the full effect of the treatment and the tumor could return, so Aedan’s mum is taking everything one day at a time. She added: “It’s a long journey ahead of him, however, so far he hasn’t had any side-effects from the surgery. It is horrible knowing it could grow back, but he’s got plenty of energy now and it’s great that he’s doing so well.”

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Lung cancer patient completes treatment cycle at N.J. PT Center

Marina Bonaparte recently celebrated the completion of her lung cancer treatment cycle, surrounded by her ProCure healthcare team. Bonaparte, a Manhattan-based dentist with a thriving practice, commuted every weekday morning for 33 treatments and two consultations, returning to her practice in Queens each afternoon to see her own dental patients.

When she was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer, her brother, a practicing nephrologist, researched all possible treatment options. He decided that proton therapy was the best treatment route for his sister because of the treatment’s precision as opposed to traditional radiation. Since Bonaparte’s cancer is in her lung, her brother worried that traditional radiation might cause collateral damage to delicate surrounding tissue, particularly to her heart.

Bonaparte trusted her brother’s research implicitly and began treatment with ProCure shortly after the center opened in March. According to Bonaparte, the care factor at ProCure was what kept her motivated throughout her treatment cycle here and subsequent chemotherapy at Cornell.

“I was so impressed by my doctor, Dr. Chon,” Dr. Bonaparte said. “I initially looked into proton therapy at another proton center, but they were unable to develop a protocol to treat my specific form of cancer. Dr. Chon reached out to colleagues at surrounding proton therapy centers to ensure that he was treating me with the proper protocol.”

“My brother and I are both medical professionals and were impressed by the extra steps Dr. Chon took in the direction of my treatment. He gained our confidence with his diligence – it meant a lot that he took the time to research my treatment so extensively,” Bonaparte added.

The other members of the care team – patient services representatives, technicians and nurses all played a large role in Bonaparte’s day-to-day well being, she noted, adding that their positive presence at her treatments made the daily trips worthwhile.

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From Cars to Proton Therapy

Two years ago as Steve Geary traveled the freshly painted hallways of ProCure’s suburban Chicago proton center, interviewing for a Senior Machinist position, he knew he had finally found the place where his 35 years of auto industry experience would be put to good use.

“After years of searching for the right opportunity, ProCure was the only place I could see myself working,” said Geary. “I knew this was the place where my experience as a machinist and tool and die maker would truly make a difference, but instead of making cars run more smoothly, I was going to help people live better lives.”

Geary works with two other machinists in ProCure’s onsite Machine Shop creating apertures for Proton Therapy patients. “Knowing the product we manufacture is helping another human being is the most rewarding way to employ the talents we’ve accumulated in our lifetime,” added Geary.

“The aperture controls the size and shape of the proton beam to be delivered to the patient and protects the surrounding healthy tissue,” says Geary. “Apertures are individually designed for each patient based on tumor size and are created for both pediatric and adult patients.”

Before a patient arrives for treatment at CDH Proton Center, a ProCure Center, a team of professionals puts together a treatment plan, using images of a patient’s tumor. Once the treatment plan is finalized, the image information is sent to Steve and his team for manufacturing. The machinist’s first step in creating an aperture is to process the digital information using software applications designed for manufacturing proton devices. Then, with the aid of computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools, the aperture is created and is accurate to 25 microns, a measurement many times smaller than a human hair.

More than 5,000 apertures have been machined by Geary and his coworkers over the past two years. Some apertures take less than an hour to produce; others can take up to six hours, depending on the complexity and size. Because of the volume of apertures created, Geary and his team are continually finding ways to improve the machining process to advance the quality of care they deliver to patients.

One of their latest projects involves working with partners on software applications that will further enhance the quality of apertures, while simultaneously reducing the amount of time it takes to manufacture them.

“This will add increased capacity to our machine shop without adding any costs to the process, helping make Proton Therapy even more accessible,” added Geary. “We’re proud of what we do in the Machine Shop. We get a sense of gratification knowing that the patient leaves healthier than when they came in.”

National Proton Conference 2013: “Improving Cancer Treatment Outcomes With Proton Therapy”

The National Proton Conference (NPC) will be held on February 11-14, 2013 in Washington, D.C. It will be lead by prominent physicians and proton community leaders from National Cancer Institute, United Healthcare and Proton Centers, focusing on improving cancer treatment outcomes with proton therapy”.

In response to the growing demand for leading-edge cancer treatment and recent investments in new clinical facilities, the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) announces its first annual plenary conference, co-sponsored by the Proton Therapy Consortium.

“The meeting will address all three dimensions of delivering proton therapy — clinical, reimbursement, and business expertise,” said Leonard Arzt, executive director of NAPT. “As new centers blossom with regularity, doctors, scientists, and facility operators want to get together to share best practices.”

Because proton therapy requires a specialized team of clinicians and physicists to coordinate care, priorities for both professional audiences will be topical including a session on radiation oncology safety standards chaired by Dr. Hanne Kooy, PhD of the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital. The NPC2013 program will also feature leading radiation oncology practitioners from prominent universities, and cover strategies for funding and operating a proton center.

Founded in 1990, the NAPT is a non-profit organization supported by proton center members and is the voice of the proton community. Promoting education and public awareness for the clinical benefits of proton beam radiation therapy, the NAPT is an advocate for the advancement of proton therapy.

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HUPTI treats its 400th patient

The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute (HUPTI), the 8th proton facility in the U.S. and the largest of its kind in the world, has treated its 400th patient. The center is expected to reach full operation later this year, treating approximately 1,500 patients annually.

Stan Jackson, an attorney of Aiken, South Carolina, was treated on September 21st:  “I’m ecstatic…”, he says. “I wasn’t the first and I certainly won’t be the last. I hope I’m just the start of a great migration of patients at HUPTI, for a caring treatment of cancer”.

Jackson was diagnosed in March 2012 with prostate cancer and initially began IMRT treatments in June. He started to develop severe side effects and quickly decided to opt for a different treatment. Proton therapy helped him to proceed with his treatments with  a marked reduction in his complications, says Christopher Sinesi, M.D., HUPTI medical director.

The actual treatment of protons lasts less than two minutes. Patients are treated five days a week, from one to nine weeks. Jackson began proton therapy treatment last month and completed three weeks of treatment. He is convinced he made the best decision: “I wouldn’t be spending the time, effort and money for lodging, etc., if I didn’t think that proton therapy was the best therapeutic remedy for prostate cancer without complications.”

HUPTI began treating patients in August of 2010, and is currently treating prostate, breast, brain, lung, head and neck, pediatric and other cancers. “The staff is not only very experienced, they’re also very happy, caring, supportive, and concerned people,” said Jackson. “They couldn’t be better.”

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NAPT director talks about proton therapy

Leonard Arzt, executive director of the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT), has been promoting the therapeutic benefits of proton therapy for cancer treatment in the U.S. and abroad ever since the foundation of the center in 1990.

Arzt has seen proton therapy evolve along the years. The ever first patients were men with prostate cancer who self-referred themselves after they discovered the advantages of proton beam radiation therapy over conventional X-ray radiation. Today, proton therapy is still a small radiation community and represents only 1% of all radiation oncology procedures, but it is surely growing. There are currently 10 operating centers around the country and another 10 or more under construction.

According to Arzt, the benefits of proton therapy are totally worth the costs it causes, as protons minimize harmful side effects and morbidity, allowing the patients to live a healthy lifestyle while being treated and increasing their chances of a better quality of life in the long run. Moreover, cheaper devices with smaller footprints are being developed, giving more hospitals access to proton therapy and answering their patients’ need to limit their travel time and stay closer to home.  For the first 10 to 12 years, cancer patients had to travel to California if they wanted proton therapy, and had to stay for as long as eight to nine weeks.

Accessibiliy and availability of proton therapy for patients are thus as important as technological development, Arzt concludes.

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