St. Jude and UF Proton Therapy Institute to begin proton therapy clinical trial

November 09, 2009

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute have formed a collaboration to provide proton therapy for St. Jude patients. The announcement follows the approval of the first clinical study to evaluate the use of proton therapy for rare brain cancers in children younger than 3 years old.

Under the clinical protocol, St. Jude will refer patients to receive proton therapy at the UF Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville, Fla. The purpose of the clinical study is to improve response rates and decrease treatment-related side effects.

Proton therapy is being studied as a way to reduce potential damage to healthy tissue that may result from conventional radiation therapy. This is especially important in treating children with brain and spinal tumors to potentially avoid interference with development, growth and cognitive functioning.

St. Jude has the world's largest protocol-based, pediatric brain tumor research and treatment program, which puts it in an excellent position to scientifically document the advantages realized with proton beam radiation therapy.

"Proton beam therapy is potentially of great importance to St. Jude and our patients," said Dr. Joseph H. Laver, St. Jude executive vice president and clinical director. "Although most proton facilities operating in the U.S. recognize pediatrics as a major area of focus, there is very little meaningful data using this modality in children. Working with UF Proton Therapy Institute, we are well-positioned to answer key questions regarding this therapy for children with cancer."

St. Jude patients accepted for the clinical study will be in Jacksonville for proton therapy treatment for six to eight weeks. It is expected that up to 15 patients will receive treatment during the first year of the study. While in Jacksonville, hospital care for St. Jude patients will be provided by Nemours Children's Clinic Jacksonville and Wolfson Children's Hospital. The Ronald McDonald House in Jacksonville will house St. Jude patients while they are receiving treatment in Florida.

"It is central to our mission to realize the full potential of protons in the treatment of children," said Dr. Nancy Mendenhall, medical director at UF Proton Therapy Institute. "In cooperation with St. Jude, we will have both clinical and research expertise to provide the best outcomes for patients and to create new knowledge that will guide the development of proton therapy for future patients."

St. Jude leads the field in the application of intensified modulated radiation therapy, known as IMRT. The technique is effective at avoiding damage to adjacent tissues; however, IMRT can still deliver significant radiation doses to underlying tissues resulting in unavoidable side effects for some children. Proton therapy can be focused more precisely and intensely on specific areas of cancerous activity. Protons can also be energized for a desired degree of tumor penetration, thus sparing underlying tissues from radiation exposure.

UF Proton Therapy Institute is one of only six proton therapy centers in the United States. Since opening in August 2006, UF Proton Therapy Institute has treated 100 pediatric patients.
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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization. For more information, please visit www.stjude.org.

University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute

University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to patient care, using radiation techniques that offer cancer patients the best chance of cure and the least chance of treatment-related side effects. Affiliated with the UF College of Medicine, the physician and physicist faculty are engaged in numerous clinical research protocols and technology development projects to determine the best roles and methods of delivery for proton therapy.

Nemours Children's Clinic Jacksonville

Nemours, one of the nation's leading pediatric health systems, is dedicated to achieving higher standards in children's health by offering a spectrum of clinical treatment, research, advocacy, and educational health and prevention services extending to all families in the communities it serves. For more information about Nemours, please visit www.nemours.org.

Wolfson Children's Hospital

Wolfson Children's Hospital is a not-for-profit 180-bed pediatric referral hospital serving children throughout Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia, the U.S. and from around the world. One of only two children's hospitals in Florida to receive Magnet™ status for excellence in nursing care, Wolfson Children's patient- and family-centered environment is specially designed for the care of children. Wolfson's medical staff is comprised of dedicated physicians representing virtually all children's medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties through its partnerships with Nemours Children's Clinic, the University of Florida/Jacksonville and Mayo Clinic Florida.

Jacksonville Ronald McDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House is the cornerstone program of Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Jacksonville. The 30-bedroom facility offers lodging and other support services for families with critically ill, chronically ill or seriously injured children being treated in Jacksonville. Since 1988, the House has served more than 26,000 families. The services provided to families staying at the House help to reduce the amount of stress placed upon them while their child is undergoing medical care. Families are kept together and close to the hospital in an environment that supports their physical and emotional needs.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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