UF Health Proton Therapy Institute crosses important milestone in the care of pediatric cancer patients

An increasing number of children who need radiation to treat their cancers are being treated at the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. Since opening in 2006, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has treated over 1,000 pediatric patients, a milestone it reached this month. It is currently the world’s largest pediatric proton therapy program, serving 25-30 children each day.

Proton therapy is a specialized form of radiation treatment that minimizes damage to healthy tissue surrounding a tumor. It is especially important to limit radiation exposure in the rapidly growing bodies of children since their cells are more susceptible to radiation damage. The long-term benefit for survivors of childhood cancer treated with proton therapy is a reduced risk of developing radiation induced chronic illness, low growth hormone production, secondary cancer or impaired IQ.

The most common tumors in children treated with proton therapy at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute are ependymoma, craniopharyngioma, low-grade glioma, rhabdomyosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma and medulloblastoma. Over 200 of these children will be treated in 2015. “Since the majority of our pediatric patients are treated for sarcomas and brain tumors near critical healthy tissue, it is paramount to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure which can compromise growth and development,” said Daniel J. Indelicato, M.D., associate professor and director of pediatric radiotherapy at the University of Florida. “Our goal is to cure children with high-dose radiation but still avoid side effects.”

“The advantages for children who have tumors treated with protons are quite significant,” said Nancy P. Mendenhall, M.D., medical director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and associate chair and professor of radiation oncology at UF. “Survivorship for our youngest patients will mean both a longer life and a healthy life free from the late effects of conventional radiation treatment.”

The pediatric radiotherapy program at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is unique in its multidimensional scope of care, which includes dedicated pediatric radiation oncologists, specialized pediatric nurses, pediatric anesthesiologists, experienced radiation therapists, a pediatric social worker, and a full-time child life specialist. This comprehensive approach has become a model within the field and draws pediatric patients from 36 states and 20 countries. Since many pediatric tumors are treated with a combination of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy, the University of Florida partners with Nemours Children’s Specialty Clinic and Wolfson Children’s Hospital to provide the full-spectrum pediatric oncology care. Together, these institutions offer over 20 advanced clinical trials for children with cancer. In 2015, over 95% of pediatric patients treated at the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute were enrolled on a clinical study.

As part of an academic health center, a fundamental component of the University of Florida pediatric program is education. The doctors at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute are training the next generation of pediatric radiation oncologists. This includes residents from UF, the Moffitt Cancer Center, and the Mayo Clinic. In addition, UF began the first radiation oncology fellowship dedicated to the subspeciality of pediatric proton therapy in 2011.

UF Health Proton Therapy Institute earns ACR accreditation

American Color of Radiology Certified FacilityThe American College of Radiology (ACR) has awarded a three-year term of accreditation in radiation oncology to the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. It is awarded to facilities that meet or exceed national standards in radiation oncology. Of the 17 proton therapy centers in the U.S., UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is one of three proton therapy facilities to have earned the ACR seal of accreditation, representing the highest level of quality and patient safety.

The accreditation means that personnel are qualified through education and certification to administer radiation therapy. Furthermore, it means the equipment is appropriate for delivering radiation therapy and meets or exceeds national standards for safety and quality assurance.

“Our goal is to deliver safe, effective cancer treatment to patients using proton therapy,” said Nancy P. Mendenhall, M.D., medical director of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and associate chair and professor of radiation oncology at UF. “Being part of an academic health center and a Florida Cancer Center of Excellence, we opened our doors for an objective and rigorous peer review by ACR. We are honored to have earned this distinction, and I commend our staff for their commitment to excellence.”

UF Health Proton Therapy Institute was recognized earlier this year among the first four Florida Cancer Centers of Excellence designated by the Florida Department of Health. The designation means that treatment centers demonstrate excellence in patient-centered coordinated cancer care.

The ACR is the nation’s oldest and most widely accepted radiation oncology accrediting body, with over 600 accredited sites, and 27 years of accreditation experience. The ACR seal of accreditation is awarded only to facilities meeting specific Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards developed by ACR after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Patient care and treatment, patient safety, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures, and quality assurance programs are assessed. The findings are reported to the ACR Committee on Radiation Oncology Accreditation, which subsequently provides the practice with a comprehensive report they can use for continuous practice improvement.

The ACR is a national professional organization serving more than 36,000 diagnostic/interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services.

Don't miss the 11th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic

11th Annual Play Golf Fight Cancer® Classic

Join in the fellowship and fun at the one-of-a-kind World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum and the championship golf courses King & Bear and Slammer & Squire for the 11th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic in St. Augustine, Fla., October 11-12. The charity event, presented by IBA and .decimal with additional support from Shepherd, will benefit the research programs at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, a nonprofit, 501 (c) 3 organization.

The event kicks off on Sunday, October 11, at 6 p.m. in the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum. Guests will explore the museum honoring the greatest golfers with exhibits of their most significant trophies, equipment and history-making wins. For those who want to get in a few practice swings, they can try out the new Golfzon golf simulator and its up-to-date sensor technology, one of only two in the U.S. with 150 worldwide courses to choose from.

A dinner and silent auction will be held in Shell Hall where each hall of fame member is enshrined. An exciting live auction includes the chance to bid on a one-week stay in a North Carolina cabin, a river excursion for six people on a luxury 46-foot cruiser, a dinner for six prepared by celebrity chef Robert Tulko, and a dinner for six prepared by Dr. Nancy Mendenhall. Other chances to win in the silent auction include a range of items from unique collectible and dinner and spa gift cards to golf foursomes, The PLAYERS Championship tickets and vacation getaways. Whether shopping for yourself or a gift for someone else, it’s a great way to buy something you want or need, and you can feel good knowing that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the life-saving research at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

Golf begins on Monday, October 12, with registration at 7 a.m. and a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Players will be assigned to one of two championship courses designed by legendary World Golf Hall of Fame members: the King & Bear or the Slammer & Squire. Trophies will be awarded to the best-scoring teams, closest to the pin and longest drive.

The awards reception will include an inspiring keynote talk by our honorary chair Shannon Miller, the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history. As a 7-time Olympic medalist and cancer survivor, she is an advocate for early detection and health and fitness. She will be available for a meet and greet and autograph signing at the reception.

To register for the event and/ or attend the dinner, click through to register on the www.playgolffightcancer.org website.

To donate or support the cause in some other way, if you are not available for the event, contact tournament chair Michael McPhillips at mcpforegolf@gmail.com (904) 910-7098 or Judy Taylor Holland jholland@floridaproton.org (904) 588-1401.

In the community

Team Florida Proton in the 2nd Annual LungForce Walk

Team Florida Proton participated in the 2nd Annual LungForce Walk in August to benefit the American Lung Association (ALA) and its effort to raise awareness of lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women. Funds raised at the walk benefit the research and early detection programs sponsored by the ALA.

Message from Stuart Klein, Executive Director

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute marked its ninth year in operation on August 14. With nearly 6,000 patients treated and 190,000 treatments delivered, we are among the most experienced proton therapy centers worldwide, ranking in the top five for number of treatments. We have treated significant numbers of prostate, head and neck, lung, breast, pancreas, and brain/CNS cancers as well as sarcoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. Our pediatric program is the largest in the world with an average of 20 children on treatment each day.

We have tracked patient satisfaction of the treatment and our service since opening. Over time, the satisfaction rates are consistently high with 94 percent of patients rating our service "excellent" and 98 percent of patients saying they would recommend our services to others. Our commitment to patient-centered care is one of the reasons we were one of the first four organizations designated by the Florida Department of Health as a Florida Cancer Center of Excellence in 2015, the first year of the awards program.

This combination of technology, experience and compassion gives patients the confidence that proton therapy at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is the right choice for treating their cancer and going on to live life to the fullest.

Stuart Klein

Moving on from prostate cancer

Ben Smith (l) chats with a proton therapy staff member in August 2006 as he prepares to be the first patient at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

By Carol Estocko

After Ben Smith was “fired” by his urologist 10 years ago for declining to undergo a radical prostatectomy to treat his prostate cancer, Smith fired up his computer and got to work.

“I started doing Internet research and looking at every available therapy at the time, even cryotherapy,” the 62-year-old Cocoa Beach, Florida, resident says. “All of the treatments had pretty good e ffi cacy. But then, they would talk all about the possible side e ff ects like impotence and incontinence — except for proton beam therapy.”

At the time, there were only a handful of clinical centers o ff ering proton therapy in the United States, including ones in Boston, Massachusetts, and Loma Linda, California. “I did a little more homework and found that the University of Florida was actually building one in Jacksonville, which is two hours from my home,” says Smith. He reached out to the sta ff of the soon-to-open University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute (UFPTI) and said he wanted to be the first patient.

“I waited for it to open,” says Smith, who received his first proton beam treatment at UFPTI on August 14, 2006.

“I was the first person in that machine when they turned it on,” he recalls. “I had 39 treatments, and the equipment worked every time. I might have been delayed while they tweaked something, but I never had a treatment get cancelled. This is complicated machinery — a particle accelerator, magnets. It’s crazy how huge, powerful and complex these systems are. And they got it up and running 39 days in a row.”

Smith, a retired aerospace engineer, thinks that many doctors still view proton therapy as an experimental procedure — if they have even heard about it at all.

“I think one has to be one’s own advocate,” he says. “I don’t think doctors want to harm you. But the urologist wants to operate. The radiation oncologist wants to radiate. Another person wants to do seed implants (brachytherapy). They want to do what they know. And a lot of people go with whatever the doctor says.”

Smith and his wife Lisa are in the process of restoring a 36-foot sailboat, which they plan to live on for the foreseeable future. They will travel, then determine where they want to settle down. “We are enjoying our lives,” he says.

“For me, proton beam was a treatment I was privileged and blessed to have, but it’s just something that I did, and I’m glad I did it. If I see an article on it, I’ll read it. But it’s not something that I need to make a major part of my life.”

This article originally appeared March 20, 2015, in Proton Therapy Today. Used with permission.

Support comes in many shapes and sizes

Proton therapy is a powerful tool to eliminate malignancies, but it is no match for a family of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles supporting their loved one. Congratulations, Landon!

Calling all who like dinner and/or golf

The 11th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic , UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s primary fundraising event, is Oct. 11-12, 2015, at The World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla. The event is being presented by IBA and .decimal with additional support from Shepherd and has something for everyone.

A dinner and silent auction is planned for Sunday, Oct. 11, in the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum. For all who register as a player, you automatically have a ticket to the dinner. However, tickets to attend the dinner and silent auction are also available for those who do not wish to play golf.

Aside from a great dinner, you will enjoy entertainment such as:

• A live auction called by local celebrity Chef Robert Tulko.

• Bid on auction items such as

  • A one-week stay at a North Carolina cabin
  • A luxury boat excursion for 6 people
  • Dinner for 6 prepared by Chef Robert Tulko
  • Passes to the 2016 The PLAYERS tournament
  • A laptop computer

• A look inside the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum honoring the greatest players and contributors to the game of golf.

• Try out the new Golfzon golf simulator for a virtual experience playing on a choice of 150 worldwide courses

The tournament will be played Monday, Oct. 12, on both of the o ffi cial 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.

Golfers will have the chance to win prizes along the way and to meet and greet 7-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller. She is the honorary chair of this year’s tournament and is the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony following tournament play.

Please join us in support of proton therapy research and register today at www.playgolffightcancer.org website. To donate or support the cause in some other way, if you are not available for the event, contact tournament chair Michael McPhillips at mcpforegolf@gmail.com (904) 910-7098 or Judy Taylor Holland jholland@floridaproton.org (904) 588-1401.

In the community

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is proud to sponsor these upcoming events in the Jacksonville area.


When: Aug. 29, 2015
Where: The Jacksonville Landing, 2 Independent Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32202

LUNG FORCE is a national movement led by the American Lung Association (ALA) to raise awareness that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

You can participate on the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute team in the 2nd Annual LUNG FORCE Walk/Run on August 29, 2015, at The Landing in downtown Jacksonville. Funds raised will benefit the ALA’s efforts to research a cure and promote awareness of early detection. Show your support and help raise awareness that proton therapy is an excellent option for lung cancer treatment.

Last year, we had the largest team and made quite an impact with our bright yellow shirts and proton logos. Our team captain Bradlee Robbert is ordering equally bright shirts with our new logo and each participant will receive a complimentary shirt. There is no cost to register. To sign up, follow these steps:

  1. Click here for the registration website
  2. Click the blue “Register” button
  3. Click “Join Team”
  4. In the “Team Name” box, type Florida Proton, then click the “Search for a Team” button
  5. Click “Join” and follow the on-screen instructions
  6. Contact brobbert@floridaproton.org with name and shirt size for each person you registered. Shirts are complimentary if you register and email Brad by Monday, August 17.

Free to Breathe Walk

When: Sept. 12, 2015
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 funded 50 researchers at medical and research centers across the United States since 2005. Past grant recipients have:

  • Received at least 91 additional grants to further their research
  • Published well over 200 peer-reviewed papers in the lung cancer field
  • Produced work that has led to several clinical trials.

Riverside Fine Arts Association 2nd Annual Run for the Arts 5k

When: Sept. 26, 2015
Where: Bold City Brewery, 2670-7 Rosselle Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204

This event is open to runners and walkers of all fitness levels and even includes a one-mile Fun Run for the kids. We encourage you to walk, run, bring a friend or just come and cheer someone on as we attempt to continue promoting the therapeutic value of art and exercise; a win- win for all of us. Funds from this event will help support Riverside Fine Arts Association’s mission to provide our community and northeast Florida with musical presentations featuring diverse artists of national and international acclaim. Funds also enable the association to provide outreach to Jacksonville area youth through the Project Listen program. Post-race activities include awards, live music by local artists, a silent art auction featuring work from local artists, food from Bold City, and beer from Bold City (one complimentary beer or non-alcoholic beverage to each participant).



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.


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