Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngOur anniversary slogan – “10 Years. One Mission. Cancer Free.” – is a motto we live and breathe every day at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. It represents the power of protons and the hope that is felt throughout the halls.

From our first patient in August 2006 to the patients going through treatments today, thousands of lives have been impacted by proton therapy. As we look back on the accomplishments of proton therapy and how the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has been at the forefront of a revolution in radiation oncology, none of it would have been possible without all of you.

I want to personally say thank you to our superb staff – for providing expert treatment in a way that takes the whole person into account. Thank you to the various research teams – for your commitment to the advancement of proton therapy. And a big and special thank you to our patients, alumni and caregivers, whom we have come to regard as an extension of our family – for your unwavering support throughout the past 10 years.

I encourage you to visit www.floridaproton.org to learn more about important milestones, research and other advancements in proton therapy over the past 10 years at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

Here’s to another 10 years and more,

Stuart L. Klein

UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Celebrates 10 Years of Treatment

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

The first proton therapy cancer center in the Southeast celebrates its 10th year of bringing state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment to cancer patients. Since August 2006, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has been committed to delivering advanced, noninvasive cancer treatment in a way that takes the entire patient into account so they can have the best chance to beat cancer and live life to the fullest. The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is recognized internationally as a leader in proton therapy and has earned numerous rankings and recognitions, including:

  • Number one pediatric program, treating more pediatric patients daily than any other proton center in the world
  • Fourth largest proton therapy provider in the world for total patients treated
  • Among the top-rated cancer centers in Florida, designated a Florida Cancer Center of Excellence
  • The only proton therapy center in Florida that is accredited in radiation oncology by the American College of Radiology

When the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute opened its doors in August 2006, proton therapy was a new cancer treatment to the Southeast United States. Since then, the institute has offered more than 6,400 patients from 30 countries a promising alternative to traditional radiation. Today, the Institute is equipped to treat more than 20 different types of cancer and treats approximately 100 patients each day.

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is looking toward the future with a $39 million expansion currently underway. The centerpiece of the multiphase project is the addition of a compact, single-room treatment system. The 10,000-square-foot expansion includes both an accelerator, used to speed up the protons, and a treatment gantry equipped with pencil beam scanning – an advanced proton therapy delivery technique for increased precision. When the addition is completed, the facility will have five treatment rooms – four gantries and one fixed beam room – and will increase patient capacity by approximately 25 percent. These updates will also enhance efficiency, patient and staff safety, and treatment accuracy.

 “The past 10 years have been an exciting and rewarding experience. We have seen firsthand the power of proton therapy work for thousands of people who have walked through our doors. The precision of proton therapy increases both the chance for a cure and the chance of avoiding radiation-induced side effects for many of our patients in both the short and long term,” said Nancy Mendenhall, medical director at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “Over the next 10 to 20 years, I believe the field will continue to advance and we’ll see even more demand for proton therapy as the radiation oncology treatment of choice for numerous malignancies.”

 “Celebrating our 10-year anniversary is a significant milestone. As avid believers in the power of proton therapy, we continually strive to advance the field through groundbreaking research and to deliver the highest standard of care to help all who come through our doors have the best possible experience throughout treatment and beyond,” said Stuart Klein, executive director of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “It’s for this reason that the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is regarded as one of the world’s foremost leaders in radiation oncology.”

With proton therapy, cancer patients have had access to one of the most advanced, noninvasive cancer treatments available. Proton therapy delivers a precise radiation treatment while destroying cancer cells and minimizing damage to healthy tissue. This reduces side effects and lessens the risk of developing complications from treatment later in life. It is especially beneficial for treating cancer in children and adults with cancers in sensitive areas like the head, neck, lung, breast and prostate.

Located in Jacksonville, Florida, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is staffed, situated and structured as a major clinical research facility, and serves as a center for multidisciplinary research involving all interests that touch cancer and its treatment.


Survivor Spotlight: Ben Smith

First patient treated enjoying life after the cure

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

SHANDS JPGS-9595_0.jpgThe past 10 years have been eventful for 64-year-old Ben Smith. He and his wife, Lisa, have raised two children, restored a 36-foot sailboat, spent months sailing around the Bahamas and are planning other trips around the world. Enjoying life has always been a priority for Smith, even after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005.

Smith, a now-retired aerospace engineer, did his own research on prostate cancer treatment after his urologist had suggested a radical and potentially life-altering treatment. His search led him to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, then still under construction, and he would become the first person treated at the facility. For background on Smith’s diagnosis and treatment, read a previous article, “Moving on from prostate cancer.” 

“You have to be your own advocate. Many doctors recommend the treatment they know best – but that might not mean it’s the right path for you to take. Of course, the end game is to get rid of cancer. But when you come out on the other side, you also want to have a decent quality of life.”

“When I was first diagnosed, I was scared. I was a young man, had teenage kids, a beautiful wife and I felt like I had just received a death sentence. But, it’s not. It’s a curable disease and proton therapy allows many people to keep living and not be straddled with devices and diapers,” said Smith.

Smith recalls that he had no reservations about waiting a year for the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute to open for treatment as he felt it was his only viable option. When he arrived at the treatment facility the first day it was open in August 2006, to him it felt like they had built the facility just for him.

“You don’t just have a doctor and a therapist, there’s also a team of physicists, computer programmers, software engineers, hardware engineers and company representatives all looking at you and your little walnut-sized prostate, in my case. I always felt that I was well taken care of and the staff was so dedicated and simply unbelievable from day one,” Smith notes about his initial impressions of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “I went through 29 treatments and never felt like I was over radiated and I never got burned. I also did not and do not suffer to this day from impotency and incontinence – common side-effects from more conventional, radical forms of prostate cancer treatment.”

“My doctor had said to me that I can’t say that I’m ‘cured’ from cancer for at least five years after treatment. Well, it’s 10 years later and I’m proud to say that I’m cured. I’ve beaten prostate cancer and, thanks to proton therapy and the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, I’ve been able to maintain a fairly active lifestyle and just live a regular life.”

Smith and his wife are currently visiting their adult children in the western U.S. and will be spending a few months in New Zealand. They have closed the book on cancer and are enjoying life to the fullest.

Training the next generation of experts

By Rozina Behrooz

Untitled.pngAs part of an academic health center, a fundamental component of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is education. Our doctors are not only providing cutting-edge treatment, they are also training the next generation of radiation oncologists. This includes current students from universities across the country, and radiation oncology residents and fellows from UF Health Shands, the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Mayo Clinic, to name a few. In addition, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute was the first to launch a radiation oncology fellowship dedicated to the subspecialty of pediatric proton therapy in 2011.

Here is an overview of the residency and fellowship program:

What is the difference between a resident and a fellow?

After completing four years of medical school, doctors may choose further specialization through post-graduate trainings as a resident and then as a fellow.

Resident: A resident is a doctor, training in a specific field. Residency length varies with different specialties. For radiation oncology, it is five years; one year in internal medicine and four years in radiation oncology.  They are called residents because they basically live (or reside) in the hospital or medical facility in which they are training. However, in most facilities the resident is supervised by an attending physician (also known as a staff physician) who must approve all decision-making by the resident.

Fellow: A fellow is usually someone who has completed their residency but pursues additional training in a subspecialty of that field of training.

How does the UF Health Proton Therapy residency program work?

Each University of Florida (UF) resident that comes to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute from Gainesville is here on a six-month rotation; three months with pediatrics and three months with adults.

Most of the non-UF residents that come to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute work with the pediatric program. They often come from Mayo Clinic, Moffitt and other nationally known programs. Sometimes, residents from other institutions will come to work with just the adult patients, but not often.

How does the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Fellowship Program Work?

We usually have two or three long-term fellows both in adult and pediatrics. They come from different locations for one year with an opportunity of renewing their contracts for another year if they wish. Dr. Matthew Hall, Dr. Natalie Logie and Dr. Ronica Nanda are the current long-term fellow physicians at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

Short-term fellows are usually here for no more than one month and typically come from UF Medical Oncology, UF Palliative Care and Nemours Children’s Hospital. Also, several times during each year, we have physicians from the United Kingdom that get funded by their institutions to have a short-term fellowship here.

What about all those medical students who are always around?

We usually have dozens of medical students each year who work with different physicians as part of their official rotations. They use this time to help them decide if radiation oncology is the right specialty for them to pursue.

Teeing up to fight cancer

Untitled2.pngJoin the fellowship and fun of the 12th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic , UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s primary fundraising event, is Oct. 9-10, 2016, at The World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla. There’s still time to register, volunteer and/or sponsor the annual tournament and festivities that provide crucial support for research efforts at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

The event kicks off with a dinner and silent auction on Sunday, Oct. 9. For all who register as a player, you automatically have a ticket to the dinner. However, tickets to attend just the dinner and silent auction are also available for those who do not wish to play golf.

The golf tournament will be played Monday, Oct. 10, on both of the official courses of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The King & Bear is a course that has the distinction of being the only design collaboration between namesakes Arnold “The King” Palmer and Jack “The Bear” Nicklaus. The Slammer & Squire is a championship resort course designed by Bobby Weed with consultants Sam “The Slammer” Snead and Gene “The Squire” Sarazen.

The annual fundraiser has raised more than $1 million that has directly impacted lives through the groundbreaking research being conducted daily at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Over the past decade, in pursuit of the most accurate, effective practices and treatment, the Institute has conducted more than two dozen clinical trials and numerous peer-reviewed studies, including a 5-year study on prostate cancer outcomes. To date, more than 6,400 patients from 50 states and 30 countries have received proton therapy at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and we currently have 21 active clinical studies. Importantly, approximately 98 percent of our patients participate in a registry study to track outcomes following treatment and 31 percent of patients are enrolled in clinical trials, while the national average of clinical trial participation is 3 percent.

Your support ensures the continued growth of our clinical research program, gathering the data that is necessary to advance the understanding of proton therapy.

Please join us in support of proton therapy research and register today at www.playgolffightcancer.org. To donate or support the cause in some other way, if you are not available for the event, please contact the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Phone: (904) 588-1401 Email: playgolffightcancer@floridaproton.org

Health fairs to kick off 10th anniversary celebration

FPT_10yrs_FullColorCMYK_rsg_0_0.jpgAs part of the 10-year anniversary of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, we’re throwing three health fairs to celebrate your continued health and the advancement of proton therapy. Each event will include fun games and prizes, massages, information on living a healthy lifestyle from a number of community resources and UF Health representatives, and how and why clinical research plays an important role at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Each event will have opportunities to raise support for these research efforts.

All alumni, family and friends are invited to attend. The first health fair will take place Thursday, September 15, from 12 – 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on the Jacksonville Riverfront.

Other health fairs are scheduled for November 17, 2016, and January 26, 2017.


Untitled3.pngWhen: Saturday, August 27

Where: The Jacksonville Landing

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in America, and unfortunately, it's on the rise in women. On Saturday, August 27, at 8 a.m. at the Landing, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is participating in the third annual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk 5K. The Run/Walk raises awareness of lung cancer and other lung diseases. To show our unity in the battle of lung cancer, we invite you to participate for free. In addition, each participant will receive a UF Health Proton Therapy Institute t-shirt to wear the day of the race.

There’s still time to register. Signing up is simple and free for all patients, alumni, families, friends and staff. Follow the steps below: 

  1. Log onto www.lungforce.org/runwalk
  2. Type the zip code, 32206, in the city search.  Your computer will automatically go to a new page
  3. Click on LUNG FORCE Run/Walk – Jacksonville, FL-Jacksonville Landing
  4. Click the “Register” icon
  5. Click “Join Team”
  6. In the “Team Name” box, type UF Proton and search for a team
  7. Click “Join” to join Team UF Proton
  8. Continue to follow the steps
    1. Repeat process for all new participants
  9. Use the code UFPROTON for free registration for all participants
  10. Please feel free to make a donation to LUNG FORCE
  11. After you complete your registration, email Brad Robbert brobbert@floridaproton.org with the name and shirt size for everyone you registered.  

Free to Breathe 5K

FreetoBreathe_Logo_Horizontal_RGB-HEX.pngWhen: Sept. 10, 2016

Where: The Jacksonville Landing

Free to Breathe is a national organization that aims to double lung cancer survival by 2022. The 5K walk is a fundraiser for lung cancer research and educational materials for patients and families. The nonprofit organization has awarded more than $5 million for lifesaving research since 2005. In addition, Free to Breathe invests in research and programs aimed to increase the number of patients in clinical trials, such as a matching service that helps pair patients with the clinical trials right for them and finding solutions to overcome barriers to clinical trial participation.

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is a proud sponsor of the Free to Breathe Walk and we’re inviting you to join us on Sept. 10 at the Jacksonville Landing. For more information on the event and to register, visit freetobreathe.org.

About This Newsletter

The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.


Keep In Touch

It is easy to stay in touch with us online at floridaproton.org . Look at the top right corner of the homepage for Facebook , Twitter and YouTube icons, click and join us in the social media conversation. Also on the right side of the homepage there is a button for VTOC Patient Portal . Click here to open your secure account, view your records, complete clinical trial questionnaires and communicate with your nurse case manager.


Knowing how you are feeling during and after treatment is essential to providing you the best care possible and contributes to the care of future patients.