Sparta man beats cancer with proton therapy

In New Jersey, about 14,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. With an escalating PSA (prostate-specific antigen) rate for the past ten years, 65 year-old Matt Iacobazzo of Sparta was not shocked when a two-centimeter tumor was found eight months ago in his prostate. Iacobazzo’s personal journey of dealing with his illness is one he is eager to share with others.

Instead of immediately choosing the more popular forms of treatment like traditional radiation or surgery, Iacobazzo took his time to explore options: “When you find out you have cancer, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to do something. But this is slow-growing. I went on-line and did a lot of research. And a friend and I starting discussing proton therapy.”

Iacobazzo researched the ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset and was encouraged by his findings. “The whole procedure was explained to me. I found it to be non-invasive, and they were almost holistic — I believed in this therapy after checking it out,” he said. He signed on becoming the ninth patient to be treated there.

“Protons are the most advanced and elegant way of delivering radiation treatment,” explained Dr.Brian Chon, medical director of the ProCure Proton therapy center in Somerset. “Protons are different from X-rays — they come into the body and stop, sparing healthy tissue — this is where the benefit lies.”

The procedure does not hurt and like standard radiation, it is done over eight weeks, five days a week at 30 minutes a session. “The most commons side effects are bowel, fatigue and rectal bleeding, but it is minimized with this treatment. And secondary cancer levels can be reduced by 50 percent,” said Chon.

Iacobazzo would like to see more people looking into this form of treatment and encourages others to call the center and find out if it is right for them. “I want to share this knowledge with my neighbors and men who don’t talk about this. This treatment saves your life and your sensuality,” said Iacobazzo. “And it is covered by insurance and Medicaid/Medicare”, he added. Chon is very pleased with Iacobazzo’s results: “Matt is an amazing guy. The wisest people in the world give us their trust to take care of them. I am extremely proud that we have taken care of sick people.”

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Traveling Overseas for Proton Therapy Treatment

Patients Travelling Overseas for Treatment

Traveling oversees for Proton Therapy treatment may seem daunting, but more cancer patients are doing so and are turning the treatment period into an adventure.

Curtis Poling, a former Proton Therapy patient and survivor of prostate cancer, was instrumental in getting the first foreign patients treated in Korea at the National Cancer Center (NCC). Poling still travels there about every two months to help foreign patients get acclimated.

The limited number of proton centers often necessitates travel for treatment. And when a patient does not have healthcare insurance, traveling overseas can be a more cost-effective solution, especially if that person would have to travel a long distance to a Proton Therapy center anyway.

While cost and the scarcity of centers may be the ultimate reasons for the decision to be treated abroad, Poling says the level of comfort one has while in treatment is crucial. “After being diagnosed with cancer, you may feel isolated, depressed and confused,” said Poling.

“So it’s important that from the moment a center approves a patient, staff members guide them all the way from picking them up at the airport to taking them to their accommodations, providing a tour of local shopping and staying with them through the whole treatment process.” says Poling. NCC helps orient new patients to public transit, currency, and other logistics. Patients are driven from the airport, taken to hospital on their first day, and are provided with transportation if public transit is not feasible.

“What am I going to do with all my free time?” is a common question patients have when considering overseas treatment and travel.

“Not that it’s going to be a ‘radiation vacation,’ but patients have to take into account what their free time will look like,” says Poling. “In a foreign country, patients are able to take advantage of museums, shows, shopping and tourist attractions. Some of the patients at the NCC Korea have become so busy, they’ve extended their stay.”

As a cancer patient overseas, it is important to remember that your culture, cuisine and customs may be different from the country you’ll be treated in.

“Don’t expect it to be like your own country,” he said. “If you go with that approach, you can really enjoy yourself. But if you expect everything to be the same, you’ll be sorely disappointed.”

From a little girl, one Christmas wish

From a little girl, just one Christmas wish.

It’s Christmas. Not at home in Manila. But 1,600 miles away in Seoul, Korea. And 3-year-old Georgia Halliwell-Paget has just one wish for Santa.

“She wants her owie to go away,” said her dad, Nick. “We told her it won’t happen this Christmas. But hopefully, next Christmas.”

Diagnosed with an aggressive tumor on her lower spine days after her birthday in June, Georgia is receiving proton beam treatments at Korea’s National Cancer Center (NCC) and undergoing chemotherapy across town at Severance Hospital.

Ordinarily, Nick and his wife, Becca, would have traveled to the United Kingdom for the holidays, their two kids in tow, to celebrate with their extended families. “This year is going to be a different Christmas from any other Christmas we have experienced,” Nick said, as a tall Christmas tree sparkles nearby.

It’s not just the setting. Or the circumstance. For Becca and Nick, this Christmas is special due to the immense generosity of people — many of them strangers — who have made Georgia’s cancer care possible.

“It restores your faith in human nature,” Nick said. “We’ve had over 600 donors who have raised £118,500, about $190,000. We can’t begin to thank all the people for what they have done for us.”

And then there’s little Georgia, “this little beautiful spark of life,” as Becca described her on The Helping Georgia Fund website.

“As parents, we can’t explain how lucky we are in terms of her temperament,” Nick said. “Georgia is not really phased by any of this. She understands she’s doing this to get rid of the owie that’s inside of her. And she said, ‘When my owie is gone I will start school.’

“We get so many comments about what an inspiration she is,” Nick continued. “We have a weekly meeting with Dr. Joo Young Kim. And we showed her a video of Georgia dancing around to Christmas music — after 20 proton treatments.”

When they first diagnosed Georgia with a rare Ewing’s sarcoma, physicians at St. Luke’s Medical Center in the Philippines predicted a 20 percent chance of survival. An intense regimen of chemotherapy and experimental P53 gene therapy combined to help reduce the tumor by 70 percent. Locked to the spinal column, the remaining tumor could not be surgically removed. So Georgia’s doctors considered several types of radiation treatments before Becca and Nick suggested they consider proton beam therapy.

Becca and Nick had conducted their own research online. “But it is proton sic,” Becca wrote on October 24. “It does not have an exit dose, from all our research it still feels like it should be the number one choice. We have to get this right for G; we have to give her the best chance we can.”

NCC offered an opportunity. Becca and Nick had taught school in Korea seven years earlier. They had a network of friends there to turn to for support. And the cost of proton care would be workable, a fraction of the cost in other countries.

They reached out to NCC and shared Georgia’s health records. Evaluating Georgia’s medical progress over the summer, including the smaller-sized tumor and its sensitive location, the proton doctors at NCC figured her chances of survival would be 60 to 70 percent.

“We came to Korea in October for a look and see,” Nick recalled. “We flew in at 5 that morning and flew out at 8 that night. We were able to spend time with Dr. Kim to better understand how Georgia’s treatment would work.”

And Nick and Becca found a special pediatric ward at Severance Hospital where Georgia could continue her chemotherapy. “Basically, a 10 minute walk from where we are staying,” Nick said.

After a week of treatment planning, Georgia received her first dose of protons on November 19. Her final proton treatment will be on January 7. The family will return home to Manila for Georgia’s next round of chemotherapy on January 17.

“She’s developed some redness on her back,” Nick noted. “Apart from that, there’ve been few side effects. She gets a bit tired after her proton treatments. But within an hour and a half after treatment, she’s bouncing around again.”

Nick said the family is hopeful about Georgia’s health.

“If you let it get on top of you, you feel as though there’s no way out,” Nick said. “But with everyone’s support, we’re not walking the road alone. We’re on this journey with thousands of people.”

Three-year-old Georgia Halliwell-Paget and her big brother, AJ, are spending Christmas with their parents far from their tropical Manila home. They are living temporarily in snowy Seoul, Korea, where Georgia is being treated with proton beam therapy at the National Cancer Center.

Three-year-old Georgia Halliwell-Paget and her big brother, AJ, are spending Christmas with their parents far from their tropical Manila home.

Cancer toddler named little star

Since he was 11 months old, little Lucas Thorpe, 2 years old, has been battling against a rare form of bladder cancer. He is now launching the annual Cancer Research UK Little Star awards and has been named a real little star.

After months of chemotherapy, Lucas was given the opportunity to travel to America with his mum, dad and sister for 10 weeks of cutting-edge proton beam therapy treatment.

Unfortunately, the toddler developed pneumonia and septicaemia just two days after his arrival and had to fight for his life in intensive care. Lucas almost lost his right arm and leg to septicaemia but against all odds, he survived.

Though the infection took half of Lucas’ right foot, as well as the the tips of his toes and fingers, he has learned to adapt to his condition and even toddle by himself. « Considering he could have lost his life, we felt we could live with a few missing digits », his mom said. « We still had him, and that gave us hope and kept us going. » Soon after, Lucas was declared cancer free.

The toddler was rewarded for his courage and received a Cancer Research UK Little Star award. His mom, aged 28, said: « Lucas doesn’t let anything defeat him. He is a happy, outgoing little boy who stubbornly refuses help and wants to do everything himself ».

Cancer Research UK North West spokeswoman Jane Bullock said: « Lucas is a true ‘Little Star’ who richly deserves the accolade. We hope to acknowledge the bravery of many more children like Lucas and are urging family and friends to get nominating now. »

To nominate a Little Star visit

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“Brotherhood” of prostate cancer patients celebrates completion of PT treatment

The ten local prostate cancer patients who joined to form The Brotherhood of the Blue Bottle (BBB) celebrated completion of their proton therapy treatment at the ProCure Somerset facility in June. The group is named after the bottles they received to make sure they drank the necessary amount of water before the treatment.

Many BBB members credit the close bond with fellow cancer fighters as a major confidence and morale booster during the course of their treatments: “We’ve come together here through sharing our experience,” Sparta-based patient, Matt Iacobazzo said. “We are constantly asking each other questions about our treatments – ‘What happened to you?’, ‘How do you feel?’, ‘Are you having trouble with this?’ It has been immensely helpful to identify with these guys.”

Another common bond among the brotherhood was the thorough research each man and his family performed in order to identify the best treatment option for their diagnoses: “Ninety-nine percent of my fellow graduates did their homework,” Piscataway resident Tom Patania said. “Each one of us performed extensive personal research to arrive at proton therapy as our chosen treatment option. Everyone wanted the same thing: the least invasive treatment option with minimal side effects.”

The BBB has not only bonded over shared tribulations, but also over shared results. Each patient who has had his follow up appointment has experienced lower PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels compared to his pre-treatment readings: “I am fairly ecstatic in regards to my PSA rating,” Iacobazzo said. “It has been reduced by 75 percent, which itself is great news, but the better news is that my uncontrolled cell growth has been interrupted so that the cells’ ability to replicate has been altered; they can no longer metastasize and spread. Armed with this positive news I can, in good conscience, recommend and comment favorably on ProCure and results of this groundbreaking therapy.”

Celebrating the milestone of their treatment completion with family members and friends, the patients of The BBB stressed the value of their newly formed support group.

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New UF Proton Therapy Institute newsletter

New UF Proton Therapy Institute newsletter points out biased data and faulty assumptions in UNC study.

The first issue of a newsletter from the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute includes a critique of a medical journal article by University of North Carolina researchers that claimed prostate cancer patients experience more troubling side effects after Proton Therapy than patients treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy.

“We question the value of printing such a poorly conducted and ill-informed research study,” wrote Stuart Klein, executive director at the institute. Klein said the authors’ conclusions defy those reached by multiple published studies that found only 2 percent of prostate cancer patients experienced side effects after proton treatments.

Klein highlighted several defects in the paper, Intensity-modulated radiation therapy, proton therapy, or conformal radiation therapy and morbidity and disease control in localized prostate cancer, published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 12,000 Medicare patient records studied by the authors, only 700 patients, or 6 percent, had undergone Proton Therapy, Klein noted, and all of those patients were treated at one proton center. Published studies cited by Klein involved more than 1,000 patients and several different proton centers.

“Utilizing a single institution’s data will bias the conclusions,” Klein said. “Valid research studies utilize data from multiple institutions to remove this single institution bias. The authors failed to identify this significant fact, and their conclusions did not adequately take this bias into account.”

Klein’s critique also refuted the authors’ assumption that if colonoscopies were conducted sometime after proton therapy, they were automatically triggered by treatment side effects. In fact, Klein said, colonoscopies were a routine part of some treatment protocols at the single proton facility cited in the UNC study and “had nothing to do with toxicity. The authors did not mention this in the study.”

Cancer patients and their families, Klein added, need to take it upon themselves to learn more about the disease, and the pros and cons of available treatment options.

“We likewise encourage patients to take the time and effort to question the data from all sources,” Klein said. “We find it very troubling that an article based on Medicare billing data, and containing faulty conclusions, has generated so much confusion among some patients and the physicians who are trying to advise them.”

The new UF Proton Therapy Institute newsletter, will keep patients, prospective patients and health care practitioners informed about patient experiences, events, clinical trials and newly published medical journal articles written by UF physicians.


Proton Therapy now available in Central and Eastern Europe

Prague, December 12, 2012 – PROTON THERAPY CENTER CZECH announced that from December 2012 onwards, oncological patients can access proton therapy in a brand new Proton Therapy Center Czech which has just opened in Prague. It is only a fifth center in Europe. This leading-edge cancer care center brings the most advanced radiation therapy to Central and Eastern Europe.

The facility aims at delivering proton therapy, which is an adavanced form of radiation therapy. This advanced cancer care with lower treatment-related side effects will bring its benefit to more child and adult cancer patients.

Launching its first fixed-beam treatment room, the center is going to treat prostate and brain cancer this year. With launching another four treatment rooms, it will soon start treating head and neck tumors, child cancer, lung cancer, eye melanoma or pancreatic cancer; this means indications that are difficult to treat by conventional radiotherapy. The benefits for the patients are mainly lower damage of healthy tissue, less side effects and complications and better chances of cure. Ability to precisely irradiate the tumor with the highest possible dose is what makes proton therapy a revolutionary form of cancer treatment.

The center provides the necessary comfort for international patients, including English and Russian speaking medical personnel. The center is also equipped with the latest imaging and diagnostic methods including PET/CT scanning.

While the Proton Therapy Center Czech was privately funded, it was developed in partnership with the first Faculty of Medicine at Charles University and the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering at the Czech Technical University. Both educational facilities are located in Prague.


Kiwi travels to Seoul to beat cancer

Derek Holland, 63, diagnosed with prostate cancer four months ago, has been accepted for treatment at the National Cancer Center in Seoul for nine weeks of proton therapy. He is the first New Zealander to undergo this kind of treatment.

Proton therapy, though touted as a superior form of radiation therapy, is not advocated by New Zealand medical authorities. The Ministry of Health says New Zealand has no plans to offer the treatment.

Derek and his wife Sally discovered proton therapy as they were looking into alternatives to surgery. They sold their house to pay for the trip and the proton therapy treatment, which costs more than US$ 50.000 in Seoul (and even more in the United States and Europe).

“I would sell my soul if it was going to get my husband the right treatment,” Mrs Holland said.

Mr Holland has now been admitted at the hospital, and is being filmed by the South Korea Medical Tourism Corporation, which promotes medical treatments in the country for international patients.

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Proton Therapy Self-Referral

Frustrated by few options offered by cancer care specialists, families initiate online research, discover Proton Therapy.

When Giles White was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall of 2011, he turned to his oncologist for treatment options. One option was offered: surgery. Frustrated by the doctor’s limited recommendations, Giles and his wife, Barbara, began a journey of cancer treatment research and discovery.

“I couldn’t believe we only had one option,” said Barbara. “I did the research and when I uncovered all the complications that could come from surgery, I began looking at other treatments.”

One alternative, Barbara discovered, was proton therapy. “I was intrigued by what I was reading,” said Barbara. “The minimal side effects and targeted treatment motivated us to learn more.” Barbara did most of their research online, primarily on third-party websites of organizations like the American Cancer Society. The couple also sought counsel from a close friend who had undergone proton therapy for prostate cancer.

Ultimately, the couple decided proton therapy was the best option for Giles and pursued treatment in Philadelphia at the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “The possible side effects of surgery were just not something we felt comfortable with,” said Barbara. “Discovering and choosing proton therapy was dependent on our refusal to accept surgery as our only option.”

Bob Marckini has found that the White’s experience is not unique. Marckini, who underwent proton therapy for prostate cancer, runs an online patient forum titled the “Brotherhood of the Balloon.” He is also the author of the best selling book, You Can Beat Prostate Cancer – And You Don’t Need Surgery To Do It. Often prostate cancer patients are given two or three treatment options, and rarely is proton therapy mentioned, he said.

“In the 12 years I’ve been leading this group — and we have more than 6,000 members in 33 countries — I can honestly say that I have never heard of a single case of an urologist recommending proton therapy to the patient,” said Marckini. “And in very rare cases, a primary care physician will suggest to a patient that he take a look at proton therapy.”

While some cancer patients embark on their own research, family members often play a crucial role in researching treatments. Marckini’s online forum frequently receives inquiries from fathers, daughters and mothers looking for more information about patient experiences with protons.

For the Whites, it was Barbara who led the charge to find an alternative option for Giles. “My wife was my guardian angel,” said Giles. “She spent hours in front of the computer researching. She’s the person who helped me find out about the options, which ultimately led me to undergo proton therapy.”

Once treatment is complete, many proton therapy patients serve as advocates and resources for others seeking information on the treatment. Like Marckini, Giles White continues to support the prostate cancer community by leading a support group in Wilmington, Delaware. “I feel cancer made me a better person,” said Giles. “I feel I can help others.” His most important piece of wisdom for fellow cancer patients is that each journey is different. “I tell people to do their homework,” Giles said. “Choosing a cancer treatment is an individual choice; you need to decide what’s best for you.”

Cancer girl home safe and well from Proton Therapy treatment in the US

A schoolgirl diagnosed with a rare form of cancer is just days away from hopefully being given the all-clear after receiving revolutionary proton therapy treatment in the US.

Niamh Yates was diagnosed with an undifferentiated sarcoma on the base of her spine earlier this year, and the extremely rare form of cancer caused the brave youngster severe back pain and mobility problems.

Niamh, who attends Ross High School, had to endure seven hours of surgery to prevent permanent paralysis, gruelling physiotherapy and six cycles of chemotherapy as she battled the killer disease.

The 13-year-old flew out to Jacksonville, Florida, in July to receive vital lifesaving treatment by undergoing a nine-week Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) course at a private US hospital.

The cutting edge NHS-funded treatment cost approximately £120,500 and is currently not available in the UK.

Now her delighted parents Julie and Paul, both 37, have revealed Niamh’s treatment in the US has been a success. Julie said: “It is fairly early days so far but we have been told that Niamh will hopefully be given the all-clear after an MRI scan at the end of this month.”She had to go through so many radiotherapy sessions, and, even though she stayed positive throughout, it did take its toll near the end. Niamh has been so strong throughout this whole process – she’s an inspiration to all of us.”

Julie and Paul had to raise a £17,000 to cover the expense of taking their family, including Niamh’s little brother Conor, to Florida for 10 weeks, but due to the generosity of friends, family and the public the Yates managed to raise a total of £30,000. The surplus cash will now be used to set up a charity to help families also battling childhood cancer.

“We now realise how difficult it is for a family to move out to the US and try to maintain some kind of normality,” added Julie. “We can’t thank everyone enough for the donations, we were so overwhelmed. It restores your faith in humanity.”

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