UF Breaks Record For Research Awards

UF Breaks Record For Research Awards

The University of Florida received a record $837.6 million in research funding in fiscal year 2018, surpassing the previous record set in fiscal 2016 by nearly 16 percent. Federal government funds accounted for the majority of the increase with additional funding coming from foundations, non-profits, industry and the State of Florida.

Notably, the College of Medicine is the largest recipient of research funding bringing in 42 percent of UF’s total. The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute was among the research programs that received significant new funding in fiscal year 2018. Under the leadership of Medical Director Nancy P. Mendenhall, M.D., the Institute was awarded $11.9 million by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for a large-scale clinical study on prostate cancer comparing the effectiveness of proton therapy and standard radiation. The project will compare 1,500 patients treated with proton therapy and 1,500 patients treated with standard radiation therapy at 42 treatment centers across the U.S.

“These record-shattering numbers reflect the growing prestige and reputation of the University of Florida as a research powerhouse,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “Each award represents targeted funding for UF faculty to advance the boundaries of discovery and knowledge in fields ranging from health care to engineering to understanding the fundamental nature of our universe. The record amount of total funding is also testament to the significant investment the state has made in UF over the past decade, which has enabled us to attract, retain and support outstanding research faculty across the institution.”

Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic Opens Registration

Steve Spurrier
Steve Spurrier,
Honorary Chairman
University of Florida Ambassador

The 14th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic is registering players and seeking sponsors for the October 8 event. The tournament is being held at the renowned Slammer & Squire golf course at the World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla. Honorary Chair Steve Spurrier, Gator Great and one of four people elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and as a coach, invites you to join him in supporting UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s clinical research program.

“As honorary chair of this year’s tournament, I’m proud of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and the work they have been doing to provide the best possible treatment for cancer patients and to define, through research, the best roles and methods of proton therapy,” said Spurrier.

The Institute currently has 21 active clinical studies. Importantly, approximately 98 percent of 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 the clinical research program, gathering data that is necessary to advance the understanding of proton therapy.

“Our primary missions at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute are clinical care and clinical research,” said Nancy P. Mendenhall, M.D., medical director. “Our purpose is to give patients the best quality cancer treatment. We invest heavily in research because we want to see a day when all patients with cancer are cured and none are burdened with side effects of treatment.”

To participate and for more information, visit www.playgolffightcancer.org.

 

Executive Director Message

 

StuartKlein.pngProton therapy continues to expand in the U.S. Back in 2006 when we opened, we were the fifth facility to operate in the U.S. Today there are now 27 proton facilities scattered across the country with even more being considered. What makes us different? In short, I believe it’s our people. We have approximately 220 employees that work in our center. Each represents the best and the brightest with an unquestioning dedication to provide our patients with the best care possible. This is engrained in our DNA. We constantly work hard to achieve this goal, and are grateful for the opportunity to serve our patients on their journey in beating cancer. We’re always open to suggestions on how to improve our service. Please let us know if there’s anything you feel we could do to improve.

 

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Sarcoma Awareness

 

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month and Michael Rutenberg, MD, PhD, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute radiation oncologist and UF Department of Radiation Oncology assistant professor, was interviewed on First Coast Living about this rare cancer of the soft tissue and proton therapy’s role in treatment of the malignancy. As with other cancers treated with proton therapy, sarcoma patients can benefit from the targeted dose and reduced side effects. To learn more, watch the video below.

 

Survivor Spotlight – Kathleen Patti

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

Discovering a world beyond cancer treatment

Survivor Kathleen PattiProton alum Kathleen Patti, age 22, is discovering a world beyond treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare tumor of the soft tissues. Read more about her cancer treatment here. As a student at her “dream school,” Florida State University, she is enrolled in the university’s prestigious communications program and has plans to travel the world.

“The past will always shape who I am but I’m also at a weird point in my life. I’m eight years cancer free and, even with twice-a-year routine scans and tests, I’m also just starting to feel more and more like there’s a whole other world after treatment and an endless number of paths I can explore.”

Among the paths she envisions exploring are enrolling in a study abroad program and landing a “dream job” as a host on a Travel Channel program.

Growing up with cancer, Kathleen got to be comfortable with her “cancer path” and wants to hold on to what she has learned by helping others who are undergoing cancer treatment. This summer, she is working as an intern for the Live for Today Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Jacksonville, Florida, whose mission is to offer help and support to young adults ages 18-35 with cancer. Kathleen joined the organization herself when she turned 18 and was experiencing a rough transition to an adult system from the pediatric health team she’d been working with since she was seven years old.

“Cancer is a weird thing. After going through it, it’s like you meet the one group of people that you never really wanted to know but, looking back, can’t imagine your life without,” Kathleen said. “The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute still stands out as one of the favorite places I went throughout my whole cancer experience. Everyone was so helpful and kind and it continues to be one of the happiest memories of my treatment.”

UF Promotes Two Radiation Oncologists

Dr. Julie Bradley and Dr. Roi Dagan

By Theresa Edwards Makrush

Julie A. Bradley, MD, and Roi Dagan, MD, MS, have been promoted to the rank of associate professor by the UF College of Medicine. “This is a very well-deserved promotion for both of them that reflects their distinction in clinical accomplishments, research and education,” said Nancy Mendenhall, MD, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute medical director and UF Department of Radiation Oncology professor and associate chair.

Dr. Bradley specializes in breast cancer and pediatric cancers. She leads the breast cancer program at the Institute and is the principal investigator on multiple breast cancer clinical trials. Her research in the use of proton therapy for breast cancer has demonstrated its effectiveness in controlling the disease while reducing radiation to the heart and lungs.

Dr. Dagan specializes in head and neck cancers and eye cancers. He directs the head and neck program at the Institute and has presented his research at many international medical conferences. His patient outcomes studies established early evidence that proton therapy improves local control of advanced sinonasal cancers and reduces the loss of vision and other serious side effects.

Rockin’ Out

By Pamela Gardener

Painted RocksThe Arts in Medicine program at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute (UFHPTI) has developed a unique version of the rock painting craze in a new, dual-purpose project.

For the uninitiated, the international trend of painting rocks and hiding them in public places for strangers to find is meant to “cultivate connections within communities and lift others up through simple acts of kindness,” according to the website of the original project founder Megan Murphy.

For our project, after scrubbing and bleaching river rocks, they are painted with a variety of images such as penguins, owls, ladybugs and cats. Inspiring words such as hope, love and strength are also painted on some of the golf ball-size rocks.

The hashtag #UFHPTI is painted on the bottom of each rock and then the artists – patients and their families – are encouraged to take them to their home state or country. A quick photo and post on Facebook or Twitter will let the world know how far the rocks have travelled. A short description of patients’ stories are encouraged as an interesting addition to their post. Be sure to include the hashtag #UFHPTI and tag our official Facebook and Twitter pages. The rocks can then be kept as a souvenir or hidden for someone else to discover and to learn about the UFHPTI program.

The second part of the project will stay closer to home. It will be a part of UFHPTI’s front yard, to be exact. Larger rocks are supplied for painting in the same fashion as the little ones, but they will serve more as a memorial and testimony to each patient’s strength and fortitude while receiving cancer treatment.

These rocks will be offered for painting to patients, family members, caregivers and staff. Once painted, they will cover an unadorned square of space surrounding a small palm tree in the courtyard. The plan is to fill the square with bright, hopeful colors to embrace the remembrances of friendships made during treatment.

The Arts in Medicine program seeks to enhance patient care with targeted projects to alleviate stress and provide a sense of well-being while undergoing cancer treatment.

Rare Breed Donation

By Theresa Edwards Makrush

A group of African-American men known as Rare Breed Motorcycle Club of Jacksonville has combined a passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles with a desire to help people and communities. Through fundraising events like car washes, food sales and raffles, the members collect money to donate to local charities.

Last month, Rare Breed President John “TREY3000” Stephens, Treasurer Lovell Caldwell, and Business Manager Rafaell A. Harris visited the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute to make a generous gift of $250 to the pediatric program. The contribution adds to the more than $1,000 in Christmas gifts the group donated last December to make the holiday bright for children being treated at the Institute.

Stephens said he learned about the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute several years ago through his employer’s toy drive benefiting the pediatric program. After seeing the joy on the faces of children receiving presents at the holiday party, he knew he wanted to do more for the pediatric patients.

“We are grateful to be among the charities supported by the members of Rare Breed Motorcycle Club of Jacksonville,” said Lindsay Carter-Tidwell, director of development at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “Their generosity means children in our care will have fun activities to help them through their cancer journeys.”

Executive Director Message

 

StuartKlein.pngEach year our staff is invited to participate in a Remembrance Celebration to honor the patients who have impacted our lives. During the one hour service, the names of each of our patients who have passed away over the year are read aloud. This is followed by a time for staff to share their stories and remembrances. The idea was initially proposed four years ago by our Social Services Director. I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant at first as I didn’t know how the event would be received. The event has proven to be very cathartic and inspiring. It is a time for all of us to reflect on the important work we do and renew our commitment to serve our patients as best we can.

 

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Two Proton Weddings Bring Joy, New Beginnings

The wedding of Bobbie and Dave

Love was in the air at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute as two couples put their cancer diagnosis aside to start a new chapter as husband and wife. Patient David “Dave” Leek and his fiancée Bobbie Godden were the first to get married in the lobby of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute on May 23. The event was streamed on Facebook Live. The following week patient Lindsey Morton and her fiancé Ben Jackson married May 31.

Dave, Bobbie and their two children traveled from England to Jacksonville for Leek to receive proton therapy for a tumor he has been dealing with for four years. In February 2014, Leek was diagnosed with a sacral chordoma, a rare form of cancer that arises in the spine, and had a surgery to remove it. Even though Leek had routine MRIs every six months, it wasn’t until October 2017 that his doctors noticed the tumor was back and had been growing for several years.

Dave underwent another surgery in January and his doctors recommended he follow it up with proton therapy at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute to ensure the tumor site receives targeted radiation to eradicate the cancerous cells while sparing healthy tissue in this very sensitive area of the body. Leek began proton therapy on May 1 and is feeling confident about moving past his cancer ordeal to focus on the future with his wife and two children. “Until now, we’ve always seen marriage as a piece of paper. But cancer puts life in a whole new perspective. We are considering this wedding as a celebration of life and are looking toward the future,” said Dave. “We’ve stuck together through all of life’s hurdles over the past 13 years and decided that there’s no better place to begin our next journey than at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.”

As word spread among fellow patients and the Institute’s staff that the wedding was taking place, people were inspired to get involved. Social worker Stephanie Saman arranged for a UF Health chaplain to officiate the ceremony and secured the donation of a wedding dress. Patient Services Director Bradlee Robbert organized the preparations for the big day, including securing a musician and catering. Decorations were created by artists-in-residence Pamela Gardener and Barbara Fryefield. The caregiver of another patient heard about the plans and offered to make a bridal bouquet and hair accessories.

“We are so happy for the couple and are excited they chose to share their special day with us,” said Stuart Klein, executive director at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “We not only focus on providing the best possible cancer treatment, we also want everyone who comes through our doors to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. We were thrilled to help plan and facilitate this special day on behalf of this amazing couple that is a part of our family.”

After hearing Dave and Bobbie’s plans to wed at the Institute, patient Lindsey Morton and her fiancé Ben Jackson decided to do the same thing and were married on May 31.

Lindsey is a childhood cancer survivor, having been treated when she was 2 years old. Thirty one years later, after experiencing intense pain during her pregnancy, routine screening detected sacral chordoma growing on her spine. This new diagnosis is likely a secondary cancer brought about by the initial treatment.

After having two surgeries to remove the tumor, Morton left her home and family in England to come to Jacksonville and receive proton therapy. Because protons can attack the tumor site directly and avoid exposure to surrounding healthy tissue, Morton is looking forward to a long, cancer-free future with her husband and their children, 5-year-old Lexi and 1-year-old Harper.

“We’ve been together for 10 years and engaged for 9 years. It’s been one of those things where we keep meaning to have the wedding but time keeps getting away,” said Morton. “I think it will be nice. It will be like closing an old door and opening a new one all on the same day.”

As is customary when a patient finishes treatment at the Institute, Morton will walk down the lobby stairs and close their wedding ceremony by ringing the large hanging chimes – signaling an end to one era and the beginning of another.

As with the first wedding, staff and fellow patients rallied around the couple with well-wishes and support. Members of the Jacksonville community embraced the couple, with vendors like videographer Adi Meco of AM Productions donating time to ensure that every moment of the family’s special day is captured.

“We are thrilled to be part of such a special occasion for another couple,” said Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “At UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, we don’t just want to provide the best possible cancer treatment, we want to help our patients build a community and support each other. I can think of no better way to do that than to help Lindsey and Ben celebrate the next phase of their lives.”

While these are the first weddings, the Institute has some experience with celebrating marriage. In October 2014, the Institute hosted a wedding vow renewal for patient Mark Kelso and his wife Kerry who celebrated their second anniversary while he was on treatment.

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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.