Monthly Archives

December 2015

St. Jude’s new center puts Tennessee on the proton therapy map

By | Cancer, East Tennessee, Knoxville, Pediatric Cancer, Proton Therapy, Scott Hamilton, Technology, Tennessee, Uncategorized | No Comments

With this week’s opening of a brand new proton therapy treatment center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee becomes one of just five states with two proton therapy centers.

There are now 19 proton therapy centers nationwide.

The $90 million St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center has three treatment rooms where children are already receiving proton therapy. St. Jude aims to treat 100 children at the facility by the end of next year.

“Proton therapy is an evolution in delivery of focused radiation therapy that allows us to deliver the highest possible dose to tumors while limiting damage to surrounding tissue,” said Thomas Merchant, chair of St. Jude’s department of radiation oncology. St. Jude is the first children’s hospital to establish a proton therapy center.

For Provision, which also treats pediatric patients with proton therapy at its center in Knoxville, St. Jude’s adoption of the up-and-coming medical technology is an important part of making it more widely known and available to patients who need it, says Scott Warwick, vice president of program development and strategic initiatives for Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

“With St. Jude’s entry into proton therapy, Tennessee has become a center for quality cancer care for children and adults,” Warwick said. “And in a couple of years, when the Scott Hamilton Proton Therapy Center in Franklin, Tenn., proton therapy will be readily available to every resident of Tennessee as well as those in surrounding communities. Our state has become a model for expansion of proton therapy around the world.”

Scott Hamilton, whose growth as a child was hampered by a later-discovered brain tumor, has become an advocate for cancer patients as well as proton therapy. The Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation is developing the new Middle Tennessee Center in partnership with Provision.

“I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for the patients at St. Jude,” Hamilton says. “Onward and upward!”

While you are sleeping…

By | Cancer, Clinical Care, Innovation, Patient Experience, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

At 9:45 pm, when only the guard keeps watch over the empty lobby and a few therapists tie up loose ends at the end of a long day, they arrive—mostly young, jeans-clad, ready to do the behind-the-scenes, after-hours work that keeps Provision treating cancer patients.

Tonight’s four-man night crew is among 12 total IBA employees responsible for the treatment gantries, cyclotron, and larger proton therapy system—manufactured by Belgium-based IBA—that make proton therapy possible. They work in three shifts, starting at 5:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 10:00 p.m., rotating crews every three weeks. They are little seen behind the closed doors of their control room and in the bowels of the facility’s equipment rooms, but the team is crucial to ensuring patients receive treatment on time and at the correct dose.

Tonight’s night shift is made up of Jake Storey, operator technician; Micah Veilleux, software systems engineer; Jeremy Cheatham, beam physicist; and Troy Brown, systems engineer specializing in robotics.

On this particular evening, Veilleux has preparations for a software system upgrade on his to-do list, while Storey reviews scheduled maintenance tasks such as blowing dust out of the control units, greasing hinges and checking or recalibrating various pieces of equipment.

The big job at hand, though, is dealing with recent challenges presented by IBA’s decision to change out the deflector in the cyclotron. The component, which helps channel protons to the patient target, was acting up at some other IBA sites, so the company chose to upgrade the part in all of its machines. That has resulted in a shutdown and a significant problem to solve in the coming hours. Read More

Urologist speaks out

By | Cancer, Prostate Cancer, surgery, Survivors, Uncategorized | No Comments

In an era when the number of prostatectomies is on the rise, one urologist is declaring it’s time to hold the knife.

Dr. Bert Vorstman, a Florida urologist with nearly 30 years experience, has made reducing the number of men who go under the knife for prostate cancer a personal cause.

In a release titled, “Prostate cancer surgery myths and … lies, lies and more damned lies,” Vorstman outlines his reasons men should wait before readily agreeing to surgery when they receive a positive diagnosis for prostate cancer.

The number of prostatectomies done between 2005 and 2008 increased by nearly 50 percent after actually beginning to decline in number between 1997 and 2004, according to the American Urological Association. Between 1997 and 2008, the incidence of prostate cancer actually dropped by 2.2 cases per 100,000 men. The increase was blamed on the adoption of robotic-assisted laparoscopic procedures and driven by concentration of the technology at medical centers that proceeded to  do cases in high volumes, according to a 2012 report in the medical journal Cancer.

“Although offered with curative intent, it is known that there is NO scientific validation for significant curative life extension after radical surgery/robotics for prostate cancer,” says Vorstman. “In fact, this one surgery is associated more with permanent complications (especially incontinence and impotence) than probably any other operation ever performed on humans.”

Vorstman says men who’ve been told they have prostate cancer are often urged to make a treatment decision quickly, with surgery presented as the optimal treatment option. It’s important, he says, for patients to understand that prostate cancer grows slowly and to take time considering and researching their options. Read More