Monthly Archives

January 2014

What Is the First Day of Proton Therapy Like?

By | Clinical Care, East Tennessee, Patient Experience, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, Stories, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

View the video below to follow patient Rex Ward’s first treatment experience at Provision Center for Proton Therapy:

What can you expect on your first day of proton therapy treatment?  This is a question many patients ask.  A diagnosis of cancer is scary and the first day of treatment is no exception.  Prostate cancer patient Rex Ward has generously agreed to share his thoughts and feelings about his proton therapy treatment journey.  No stranger to proton therapy – – many of his family members graduated from Loma Linda University, where the nation’s first proton therapy patients were treated in California – – Rex was thrilled to learn that proton therapy was available right here in Knoxville, Tennessee.  We will follow Rex, get his insights about proton therapy, and we may just recruit him as a Proton Guy.

Who Are the Proton Ambassadors? You Need to Know!

By | Culture of Care, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, Stories, Uncategorized | No Comments

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, life’s focus turns to cancer treatment, quality of life, care and cure. During this journey, there are a myriad of emotions, and while the search for the right answer is insatiable, there is no greater comfort or substitute than connecting with someone who has been down your path.

As the Provision Center for Proton Therapy focuses on our Culture of Care, we recognize this important element of a patient’s journey. We have created an Ambassador Program, where former proton therapy patients are available to participate in a number of ways as an advocate of proton therapy.  They are able to serve newly diagnosed patients, as well as those currently receiving treatment.  Our Ambassadors have experienced the frightening diagnosis of cancer, the exhaustive research of treatments and side-effects, the multitude of tests, the influx of medical bills, and finally the confusion and overwhelming emotions as they discern all of this new information.  They understand the needs, the anxieties, and the fears of those recently diagnosed with cancer.  They can provide information, direction, explanation and facilitation, while nourishing patients with encouragement, inspiration and hope. They are part of our Culture of Care, and they are willing to serve in any capacity that advances proton therapy.

They willingly, genuinely and respectfully extend their hand to walk with new patients through their journey. January 20. 2014 marked the first treatment day for Provision Center for Proton Therapy and our Ambassadors were on hand to support new patients and their caregivers.  Click here to see the news coverage and to meet two of our active Ambassadors, Gordon Webster and Tom Bomkamp.

If you would like to connect with an Ambassador, please click here visit the Proton Guys web site, or call the Provision Center for Proton Therapy at 1-855-566-1600 and ask to speak to one of our care coordinators.

Tennessee’s First Proton Therapy Patients Treated

By | Clinical Care, Culture of Care, East Tennessee, Patient Experience, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Three prostate cancer patients were among the first to receive proton therapy in the state of Tennessee on January 20.  Provision Center for Proton Therapy, located in Knoxville, treated its first patients with this revolutionary and accurate cancer treatment available at only in a handful of cities in the U.S.  It is one of only 14 in the nation and 46 in the world.  The center is opening less than two years after breaking ground in April 2012.  A 220-ton cyclotron, a particle accelerator that produces protons, was installed a year ago in January 2013 at the center, which sits on the 120-acre comprehensive outpatient medical campus at Dowell Springs in Knoxville.

Two Knoxvillians and one patient from North Carolina underwent proton therapy at the Dowell Springs campus at Tennessee’s first and only proton therapy facility.   Joe Hamby from Knoxville was one of the three patients to undergo the non-invasive and precise treatment.  “I researched it and knew I wanted proton therapy,” said Hamby.  “I initially planned on going to another proton center 500 miles away until I learned there was one right in my backyard.  It’s a blessing to have Provision Center for Proton Therapy right here in our community.”

Proton therapy, the most advanced form of radiotherapy in the world, uses a single beam of high-energy protons to treat various forms of cancer, such as prostate, pediatric, sarcoma, brain, lung, and breast cancers.  Different from conventional radiation therapy — in which beam energy dissipates as it passes through the body — proton beams can be fine-tuned with millimeters of accuracy to deliver maximum energy within the controlled range of the cancerous tumor.

Treatment plans will range from 20 – 40 treatments depending on the stage of the cancer.  Low to intermediate risk patients will receive 20 treatments over a four-week period.  This schedule will result in fewer side effects and will cost less than conventional radiation.

“The treatment of our first patients is such a significant milestone,” said Mary Lou DuBois, President of Provision Center for Proton Therapy.  “We are blessed and honored to see our vision come full-circle.  This wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate dedication and teamwork from all the facility, administrative and clinical staff.  Our mission is to provide our community and this region with the most compassionate and effective cancer treatment available today.”

Medical Director Marcio Fagundes, M.D., performed each of the treatments.  A board-certified radiation oncologist, Dr. Fagundes has been involved with protons since the early 1990s.  He first became interested in proton therapy during his internship and residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he had the opportunity to guest intern at Harvard University.

Provision’s “Culture of Care” will extend beyond service with a mission to respect the dignity of the human person, preserve quality of life and includes a dedicated Hospitality Team with full concierge service to engage the community and serve patient needs.  The Culture of Care program will be a distinguishing feature of the Center, along with an innovative team that will challenge the status quo for the betterment of patients through care, research, technology and cancer treatment.

Board member and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton can be seen in a local television commercial promoting the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.  These spots will air during the Winter Olympics in February and throughout the year.

Click here to read the full news release.

Proton therapy center treats first patients this week

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Proton therapy center treats first patients this week

By Carly Harrington

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Photo by Michael Patrick

When Joe Hamby was diagnosed with prostate cancer early last year, the owner of a medical staffing firm started doing his research. He talked with his doctor, searched the Internet and went to a support group for prostate cancer survivors.

“It seemed like the ones smiling the most were the ones who had gone through proton therapy,” he recalled. “This approach seemed to be the option with the fewest complications and the highest success rate.”

At the time of his diagnosis, Hamby had never heard of proton therapy, an advanced radiation treatment that uses a single beam of high-energy protons to target various forms of cancer.

This week, Hamby will be among the first five prostate cancer patients to be treated at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy in the Dowell Springs Business Park off Middlebrook Pike. More than 20 patients are signed up to start treatment in the center’s first month.

Since getting state approval to build the $119 million facility three years ago, businessman Terry Douglass and his team at Provision Health Alliance have been steadily working toward Monday, when Provision becomes the 13th proton treatment facility in the country and the first in Tennessee.

“It’s exciting, but I think more than anything I feel that we’ve been able to develop this for the community and the community has been very responsive,” Douglass said. “We’re on schedule. We’re on budget. We couldn’t be more thankful for all of that, but there’s still plenty to do.”

The facility will expand its cancer treatment capabilities in the spring and fall when additional rotating gantries come online. The devices will allow Provision to treat a wider range of tumors, including breast, lung, liver, pancreatic, brain and pediatric cancers.

Unlike traditional radiation treatment, the highly precise proton therapy leaves surrounding tissue unharmed and reduces treatment-related side effects, said Dr. Marcio Fagundes, the center’s medical director.

For example, in prostate cancer the proton beam can be selectively deposited with minimum exposure to the bladder and rectum. For breast cancer, it can target the left breast without having the heart be exposed to unnecessary radiation.

Because many patients are done after just a month of treatment, it becomes less expensive or costs the same as traditional radiation treatment, which typically takes twice as long to treat, he added.

Patients have treatments five days a week for four to eight weeks that take about 15 minutes each.

“It’s painless. There are no immediate side effects like nausea or vomiting. Patients can continue their normal activities,” Fagundes said.

Hamby, for instance, said he plans to go to work after coming in for his first treatment at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Still, some health insurance providers are limiting treatment coverage or not covering it at all for prostate cancer. While Medicare covers the treatment, Douglass said he’s working with carriers on what the reimbursement will be.

The next phase of the Provision campus will include the addition of a welcome center and 40-unit lodge for overnight patients and their families.

The hope is to start construction later this year, said Bill Hansen, Provision vice president of business and strategic development. It will be built on vacant land in front of the proton center.

Eventually, the plan is to build a community center, an extension of the nearby wellness facility that would include a pool, and a training facility for the medical community.

While less than 50 percent of the center’s first patients will be coming from out of town, the expectation is that the center will draw patients from all over the Southeast, said Nancy Howard, vice president of Provision CARES Foundation and Center for Proton Therapy patient services.

Providing a comforting environment for those out-of-town patients is a top priority.

Former patients, who have been treated by proton therapy elsewhere, like Gordan Webster, will serve as ambassadors, offering information and inspiration, Howard said.

In addition to a staffed hospitality manager in the lobby of the center, there will be organized patient programs, including lunches, dinners and patient socials to introduce them to different parts of town and surrounding communities.

“If people come from out of town, they will be less likely to venture out. The purpose is for them to get to know Knoxville and East Tennessee,” Howard said. “We’re very fortunate this is a very welcoming community, and I know the patients will feel that.”

Click Here to read this article in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Why Aren’t There More Proton Therapy Centers?

By | Clinical Care, Proton Therapy, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Given proton therapy is an effective treatment for cancer and it delivers less radiation to the patient’s healthy tissue, one might wonder why this therapy is not available in every city across the nation.  Although proton therapy has experienced a relatively slow start, times have changed.  During the early days of proton therapy, the proton equipment used to treat patients was developed by the physics department in a small number of academic institutions.  When a more commercial version of the equipment was introduced in 2000, we started to see interest in proton therapy increase.  Although interest continued to grow, the awareness proton therapy was still non-existent and still only available in two to three locations around the world.  The capital costs of these centers were a major hurdle in building a proton center.  Just a few years ago, proton centers could cost $150 million and take three to five years to construct.  Today that cost has dropped significantly with the advent of one and two room treatment centers and more advanced technology.

ProNova, a Knoxville, Tenn. based sister company to the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, is designing a two-room proton therapy system that will cost one-third of the current centers, and the equipment will be one-fourth the weight.  This system, will not only cost less to purchase, it will also cut the cost of operation and take much less time to install.  These advancements will help to make proton therapy more affordable for more hospitals around the world.  Recently, treatment costs have also been decreased with the use of hypo-fractionation.  This technique allows the physician to treat the patient with fewer treatments with a higher dose of protons during each session.  This has resulted in some proton treatments to be lower than the cost of conventional radiation.  With the cost of the equipment coming down and the treatment costs being significantly decreased, the future of proton therapy is very bright.

Today we have 14 operational proton treatment centers in the U.S. with 10 currently under construction, including two centers for the Mayo Clinic and one center being built for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.  With an additional 21 centers under development, proton therapy is growing at a significant rate.  Protons may have started slow, but they are quickly becoming the gold standard for the treatment of cancer.

Does Proton Therapy Hurt? And Other FAQ About the Most Advanced Cancer Treatment

By | Clinical Care, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Marcio Fagundes, MD, medical director of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about proton therapy.  Proton therapy is similar to conventional radiation therapy but, due to its precision, reduces the impact of negative side effects and the likelihood of cancer recurrence. It has become the gold standard for accurately targeting tumors and minimizing damage to healthy tissues.

Is Proton Therapy Experimental?

By | Clinical Care, Proton Therapy, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

experimental graphic


Proton therapy is NOT experimental. It has been used to treat patients since the mid-1950s and was approved in 1988 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Medicare and Medicaid began covering the procedure in 2000 and continue to cover proton therapy today. Close to 85,000 people have received proton therapy at centers in Europe, Asia, and the United States.  Since 1990, there have been countless studies and trials that have shown proton therapy to be the treatment of choice for many types of cancer.  Far from experimental, proton treatment has been refined and, coupled with leading-edge technology, has become one of the best treatment options for doctors and patients.  There are literally hundreds of peer review journal-published articles proving the benefits of proton therapy including: excellent effectiveness for both adults and children, it can be used on recurrent tumors (even on patients who already have received radiation), reduces risk of spillover radiation into healthy tissue and organs, and improves quality of life before and after treatment.  For a sample list of these studies you can go to our clinical studies page.

Here are some quick facts about the history of proton therapy.

  • Berkeley Radiation Laboratory treated the first patient with protons in 1954.
  • Harvard University treated its first patients in 1961.
  • Loma Linda opened the first hospital based proton treatment center in 1990.
  • 84,000 patients have been treated with proton therapy through the end of 2011.
  • There are 12 operating proton centers in the U.S., 2 more set to open in January 2014, including the Provision Center for Proton Therapy and 15 more under construction or in the planning stage.
  • There are 35 proton centers operational worldwide with dozens more planned.
  • Proton radiotherapy has been the topic of 3,000 papers since 1954.
  • Proton therapy was FDA approved for use in the U.S. in 1988—26 years ago.
  • Medicare and about 180 private insurers consider proton therapy an established technology, and have been reimbursing for proton therapy for more than 20 years.