New radiation oncology treatment equipment arrives on the First Coast

April 20, 2012

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Today a shipment from Japan arrived at JAXPORT that will change the way cancer is treated at UF&Shands. Four 40-foot containers and one 20-foot container hold a medical device called Vero, a sophisticated radiotherapy system that delivers surgically precise doses of radiation by tracking tumor movement in the body in real time. The system will be installed within the next 12 months at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville.

"The addition of this state-of-the-art, photon-based radiation therapy equipment will complement the internationally recognized University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, which has attracted patients with localized cancers from all 50 states and several continents to Jacksonville for proton therapy, including patients with prostate, pancreas, lung, head and neck cancers, brain tumors, lymphomas and sarcomas, and childhood cancers," said UF Proton Therapy Institute Medical Director Nancy Mendenhall, M.D.

A study by researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Rochester published online, and soon in print, in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics shows that patients have a good chance of surviving when small secondary tumors are treated with precise radiation doses. “With the addition of Vero, UF Proton Therapy Institute will be able to target moving tumors with exceptional accuracy,” said UF Department of Radiation Oncology Chair and UF Shands Cancer Center Director Paul Okunieff, M.D. “Generally we plan to address the needs of a patient population that is undertreated – patients with cancers that have recurred or metastasized. We will be developing clinical protocols over the next several months to define more specifically the cancers we will treat and study and will announce those at a later date.”

Nearly 1.6 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer last year, and nearly 600,000 died from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Experts estimate that up to 90 percent of those deaths were from metastases.

Construction is under way of the bunker where Vero will be housed within the UF Proton Therapy Institute. The walls, ceiling and floor are made of high density concrete to shield adjacent areas from radiation exposure. The cost of the project, including construction and equipment, is a total of $7 million.

The project adds to the radiotherapy capabilities of the facility, which currently houses two intensity-modulated-radiation-therapy (IMRT) machines equipped with image- guided-radiation-therapy (IGRT) and a proton therapy system that has four treatment rooms. The cancer treatment center includes an open MRI machine, a CT scanner and a PET-CT scanner for use in treatment planning. Together these medical devices create one of the most advanced radiotherapy facilities in the world.

“The University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute is committed to providing the best and most current cancer treatments to people living in the Jacksonville area and beyond. The addition of Vero is one more advance in radiation oncology that firmly places UF&Shands in the top tier of cancer treatment facilities worldwide,” said UF Proton Therapy Institute Executive Director Stuart Klein. UF joins one other academic medical center in North America to have the Vero system. The UT Southwestern Medical Center installed the system last year at the Simmons Cancer Center in Dallas. There are only 11 facilities worldwide with the Vero system.

UF Proton Therapy Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization affiliated with the UF College of Medicine, dedicated to delivering state-of-the-art cancer treatment and setting new standards for treating and curing cancer. The cancer treatment facility houses both conventional radiation and proton therapy, and delivers proton therapy to 110 patients a day. For more information about the UF Proton Therapy Institute, please visit, or call toll-free 877-686-6009.

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