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Scripps Offers Insights into Nation's First All Pencil-Beam Proton Center
Date:9/15/2014

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's first proton therapy center to treat patients exclusively with pencil-beam scanning is reporting exceptional results in delivering cancer treatment since opening for patient care in February.

Carl Rossi, M.D., medical director of the Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego, offered the assessment in San Francisco, where the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) is holding its national annual meeting Sept. 14 through 17.

Dr. Rossi said physicians at the Scripps Proton Therapy Center have treated a breadth of tumor sites in its first seven months that previous new proton centers have taken a year or two to accomplish. A 20-year veteran of proton therapy, Dr. Rossi also noted that the new center is offering remarkably accurate radiation delivery and the ability to treat larger tumor fields than previously possible, while also providing greater efficiency with on-time patient treatments.

Wider range of tumors treated
Earlier proton centers typically opened with a focus on treating relatively straightforward cases, such as prostate cancer, and then expanded over time. But Scripps has branched out more quickly, due to the capabilities of pencil-beam scanning and physicians' willingness to explore patients' inquiries. Tumor sites treated at the Scripps center since February include lung, brain, spinal column, base of skull, head and neck (e.g., oropharynx, salivary gland), central nervous systems, pancreas, rectum, esophagus, breast (male and female), testis, inter-abdominal lymphoid tissue, thymus gland, bone and others. The center has also delivered a number of re-treatments in areas where patients had prior radiation (an application where protons are especially appealing, because less healthy tissue is exposed to radiation).

Greater precision in radiation delivery
The center's ProBeam® pencil-beam technology, developed by Varian Medical Systems, enables doctors to be far more specific with where they deliver the radiation dose compared to earlier passive scatter technology. The system also allows doctors to vary the radiation dose within the tumor target, which previously was not possible. It also opens the door to treat larger and more irregularly shaped fields (long, narrow fields up to 40 centimeters in length). Having the ability to treat a single, larger field is far less cumbersome and time consuming than transitioning to treat multiple tumor fields.

More flexibility for timely patient treatment
By exclusively using pencil-beam scanning, every patient's treatment plan at Scripps comes in the form of a data file. This means there is no need to install physical devices outside of the treatment nozzle for each patient, as is needed with passive scatter technology, which is most widely used today. So when a Scripps proton patient needs to be moved from one treatment room to another, the transition can be made easily and quickly, often in a matter of minutes.

Clinical and research collaborations
Dr. Rossi said the center has received patients both from within the Scripps Health system and through its affiliate providers, Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego and UC San Diego Health System. Treatment at Scripps Proton Therapy Center is available to any health system in San Diego and beyond. More than one-third of Scripps' proton patients to date have come from outside San Diego, including nine different states, and as far away as Monaco.

As a member of the Proton Collaborative Group (PCG), Scripps Health is participating in multi-institutional research studies to help optimize proton therapy. Currently, Scripps is part of a PCG registry trial to gather clinical outcomes data from all of its patients, regardless of diagnosis, and expects to expand into tumor-specific studies that will explore areas such as hypofractionation. Scripps also plans to be involved in prospective randomized research trials comparing proton and X-ray radiation therapy though its involvement with NRG Oncology, a collaborative research organization of the National Cancer Institute.

Advantages of on-site imaging
Scripps Proton Therapy Center offers advanced technology needed for accurate tumor targeting, including CT and PET-CT scanners and an MRI machine. Dr. Rossi said this eliminates the need for patients to carry their immobilization devices to another location, or to compete with other departments in the health system for access to this technology.

Dr. Rossi noted the advanced imaging tools enable greater tumor visibility, which leads to better treatment plans. "For example, with a prostate patient, I may be able to see within the prostate gland and identify an area I want to hit harder. With head and neck patients, we can differentiate the lymph nodes more easily," he said. Additionally, having this equipment on site enables doctors to quickly and easily order scans to verify patient anatomy and to look at tumor regression during treatment, and to rapidly adapt the radiation fields to changes in tumor configuration.

Scripps Health provides the center's clinical management services and Scripps Clinic oversees the medical services. Advanced Particle Therapy is the center's developer and owner. The center is located in the Mira Mesa area of San Diego at 9730 Summers Ridge Road.  More information is available by calling 858-549-7400.

ABOUT SCRIPPS HEALTH
Founded in 1924 by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, Scripps Health is a nonprofit integrated health system based in San Diego, Calif. Scripps treats a half-million patients annually through the dedication of 2,600 affiliated physicians and 13,750 employees among its five acute-care hospital campuses, hospice and home health care services, and an ambulatory care network of physician offices and 25 outpatient centers and clinics.

Recognized as a leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, Scripps is also at the forefront of clinical research, genomic medicine and wireless health care.  With three highly respected graduate medical education programs, Scripps is a longstanding member of the Association of American Medical Colleges. In 2014, Truven Health Analytics named Scripps one of the top five large health systems in the nation for the third year, and Scripps hospitals are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the nation's best. Scripps is regularly recognized by Fortune, Working Mother magazine and AARP as one of the best places in the nation to work. More information can be found at www.scripps.org.

Media Contact: Steve Carpowich
Phone: 858-356-7476
Email: carpowich.stephen@scrippshealth.org


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