What Is the First Day of Proton Therapy Like?

Posted by on Thursday, January 30th, 2014


View the video below to follow patient Rex Ward’s first treatment experience at Provision Center for Proton Therapy:

What can you expect on your first day of proton therapy treatment?  This is a question many patients ask.  A diagnosis of cancer is scary and the first day of treatment is no exception.  Prostate cancer patient Rex Ward has generously agreed to share his thoughts and feelings about his proton therapy treatment journey.  No stranger to proton therapy – – many of his family members graduated from Loma Linda University, where the nation’s first proton therapy patients were treated in California – – Rex was thrilled to learn that proton therapy was available right here in Knoxville, Tennessee.  We will follow Rex, get his insights about proton therapy, and we may just recruit him as a Proton Guy.

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Who Are the Proton Ambassadors? You Need to Know!

Posted by on Friday, January 24th, 2014


When someone is diagnosed with cancer, life’s focus turns to cancer treatment, quality of life, care and cure. During this journey, there are a myriad of emotions, and while the search for the right answer is insatiable, there is no greater comfort or substitute than connecting with someone who has been down your path.

As the Provision Center for Proton Therapy focuses on our Culture of Care, we recognize this important element of a patient’s journey. We have created an Ambassador Program, where former proton therapy patients are available to participate in a number of ways as an advocate of proton therapy.  They are able to serve newly diagnosed patients, as well as those currently receiving treatment.  Our Ambassadors have experienced the frightening diagnosis of cancer, the exhaustive research of treatments and side-effects, the multitude of tests, the influx of medical bills, and finally the confusion and overwhelming emotions as they discern all of this new information.  They understand the needs, the anxieties, and the fears of those recently diagnosed with cancer.  They can provide information, direction, explanation and facilitation, while nourishing patients with encouragement, inspiration and hope. They are part of our Culture of Care, and they are willing to serve in any capacity that advances proton therapy.

They willingly, genuinely and respectfully extend their hand to walk with new patients through their journey. January 20. 2014 marked the first treatment day for Provision Center for Proton Therapy and our Ambassadors were on hand to support new patients and their caregivers.  Click here to see the news coverage and to meet two of our active Ambassadors, Gordon Webster and Tom Bomkamp.

If you would like to connect with an Ambassador, please click here visit the Proton Guys web site, or call the Provision Center for Proton Therapy at 1-855-566-1600 and ask to speak to one of our care coordinators.

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Tennessee’s First Proton Therapy Patients Treated

Posted by on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

The clinical team at Provision Center for Proton Therapy treated the first proton therapy patients in the State of Tennessee today.

Three prostate cancer patients were among the first to receive proton therapy in the state of Tennessee on January 20.  Provision Center for Proton Therapy, located in Knoxville, treated its first patients with this revolutionary and accurate cancer treatment available at only in a handful of cities in the U.S.  It is one of only 14 in the nation and 46 in the world.  The center is opening less than two years after breaking ground in April 2012.  A 220-ton cyclotron, a particle accelerator that produces protons, was installed a year ago in January 2013 at the center, which sits on the 120-acre comprehensive outpatient medical campus at Dowell Springs in Knoxville.

Two Knoxvillians and one patient from North Carolina underwent proton therapy at the Dowell Springs campus at Tennessee’s first and only proton therapy facility.   Joe Hamby from Knoxville was one of the three patients to undergo the non-invasive and precise treatment.  “I researched it and knew I wanted proton therapy,” said Hamby.  “I initially planned on going to another proton center 500 miles away until I learned there was one right in my backyard.  It’s a blessing to have Provision Center for Proton Therapy right here in our community.”

Proton therapy, the most advanced form of radiotherapy in the world, uses a single beam of high-energy protons to treat various forms of cancer, such as prostate, pediatric, sarcoma, brain, lung, and breast cancers.  Different from conventional radiation therapy — in which beam energy dissipates as it passes through the body — proton beams can be fine-tuned with millimeters of accuracy to deliver maximum energy within the controlled range of the cancerous tumor.

Treatment plans will range from 20 – 40 treatments depending on the stage of the cancer.  Low to intermediate risk patients will receive 20 treatments over a four-week period.  This schedule will result in fewer side effects and will cost less than conventional radiation.

“The treatment of our first patients is such a significant milestone,” said Mary Lou DuBois, President of Provision Center for Proton Therapy.  “We are blessed and honored to see our vision come full-circle.  This wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate dedication and teamwork from all the facility, administrative and clinical staff.  Our mission is to provide our community and this region with the most compassionate and effective cancer treatment available today.”

Medical Director Marcio Fagundes, M.D., performed each of the treatments.  A board-certified radiation oncologist, Dr. Fagundes has been involved with protons since the early 1990s.  He first became interested in proton therapy during his internship and residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he had the opportunity to guest intern at Harvard University.

Provision’s “Culture of Care” will extend beyond service with a mission to respect the dignity of the human person, preserve quality of life and includes a dedicated Hospitality Team with full concierge service to engage the community and serve patient needs.  The Culture of Care program will be a distinguishing feature of the Center, along with an innovative team that will challenge the status quo for the betterment of patients through care, research, technology and cancer treatment.

Board member and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton can be seen in a local television commercial promoting the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.  These spots will air during the Winter Olympics in February and throughout the year.

Click here to read the full news release.

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Why Aren’t There More Proton Therapy Centers?

Posted by on Friday, January 17th, 2014

This U.S. map shows the locations of proton therapy centers currently operating, under construction and under development.  (credit: Andrew Tessier)

Given proton therapy is an effective treatment for cancer and it delivers less radiation to the patient’s healthy tissue, one might wonder why this therapy is not available in every city across the nation.  Although proton therapy has experienced a relatively slow start, times have changed.  During the early days of proton therapy, the proton equipment used to treat patients was developed by the physics department in a small number of academic institutions.  When a more commercial version of the equipment was introduced in 2000, we started to see interest in proton therapy increase.  Although interest continued to grow, the awareness proton therapy was still non-existent and still only available in two to three locations around the world.  The capital costs of these centers were a major hurdle in building a proton center.  Just a few years ago, proton centers could cost $150 million and take three to five years to construct.  Today that cost has dropped significantly with the advent of one and two room treatment centers and more advanced technology.

ProNova, a Knoxville, Tenn. based sister company to the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, is designing a two-room proton therapy system that will cost one-third of the current centers, and the equipment will be one-fourth the weight.  This system, will not only cost less to purchase, it will also cut the cost of operation and take much less time to install.  These advancements will help to make proton therapy more affordable for more hospitals around the world.  Recently, treatment costs have also been decreased with the use of hypo-fractionation.  This technique allows the physician to treat the patient with fewer treatments with a higher dose of protons during each session.  This has resulted in some proton treatments to be lower than the cost of conventional radiation.  With the cost of the equipment coming down and the treatment costs being significantly decreased, the future of proton therapy is very bright.

Today we have 14 operational proton treatment centers in the U.S. with 10 currently under construction, including two centers for the Mayo Clinic and one center being built for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.  With an additional 21 centers under development, proton therapy is growing at a significant rate.  Protons may have started slow, but they are quickly becoming the gold standard for the treatment of cancer.

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Does Proton Therapy Hurt? And Other FAQ About the Most Advanced Cancer Treatment

Posted by on Friday, January 10th, 2014

Marcio Fagundes, MD, medical director of the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about proton therapy.  Proton therapy is similar to conventional radiation therapy but, due to its precision, reduces the impact of negative side effects and the likelihood of cancer recurrence. It has become the gold standard for accurately targeting tumors and minimizing damage to healthy tissues.

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Is Proton Therapy Experimental?

Posted by on Friday, January 3rd, 2014

experimental graphic


Proton therapy is NOT experimental. It has been used to treat patients since the mid-1950s and was approved in 1988 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Medicare and Medicaid began covering the procedure in 2000 and continue to cover proton therapy today. Close to 85,000 people have received proton therapy at centers in Europe, Asia, and the United States.  Since 1990, there have been countless studies and trials that have shown proton therapy to be the treatment of choice for many types of cancer.  Far from experimental, proton treatment has been refined and, coupled with leading-edge technology, has become one of the best treatment options for doctors and patients.  There are literally hundreds of peer review journal-published articles proving the benefits of proton therapy including: excellent effectiveness for both adults and children, it can be used on recurrent tumors (even on patients who already have received radiation), reduces risk of spillover radiation into healthy tissue and organs, and improves quality of life before and after treatment.  For a sample list of these studies you can go to our clinical studies page.

Here are some quick facts about the history of proton therapy.

  • Berkeley Radiation Laboratory treated the first patient with protons in 1954.
  • Harvard University treated its first patients in 1961.
  • Loma Linda opened the first hospital based proton treatment center in 1990.
  • 84,000 patients have been treated with proton therapy through the end of 2011.
  • There are 12 operating proton centers in the U.S., 2 more set to open in January 2014, including the Provision Center for Proton Therapy and 15 more under construction or in the planning stage.
  • There are 35 proton centers operational worldwide with dozens more planned.
  • Proton radiotherapy has been the topic of 3,000 papers since 1954.
  • Proton therapy was FDA approved for use in the U.S. in 1988—26 years ago.
  • Medicare and about 180 private insurers consider proton therapy an established technology, and have been reimbursing for proton therapy for more than 20 years.


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