Cutting-Edge Cancer Treatment Center Improves Health of Thousands
California, United States .... [Wendi
"Source: Adventist News Network"
Bob Marckini got a phone call in August 2000 saying he had
he thought it was the lowest point in his life. He did
what many do in that
situation -- he did research, spoke with numerous
doctors, and tried to
decide the best way to deal with the problem.
He also spoke with former
patients who had undergone a variety of
treatments such as surgery,
brachytherapy (seeds), conventional
radiation and proton therapy. "Of all
those with whom I spoke, it was
the proton patients who were most
enthusiastic -- bordering on ecstatic
-- about their treatment. I interviewed
56 of them. And they confirmed
what I heard from the first one. No pain,
minimal-to-no side effects."
come from a presentation at Hampton University
in Virginia in August 2005
where he encouraged that university to
approve a proposal to establish a
proton therapy center.
Marckini chose to get proton therapy at the Loma
Proton Treatment Center. Just over a year ago, the Center
10,000th patient. Now the numbers are above 11,000. Why do they
here? "One of the major reasons people initially came here was to
and get away from the detrimental side effects that we see with
forms of radiation," says Jerry D. Slater, M.D., chair and professor
the Department of Radiation Medicine at Loma Linda University
He explains that proton treatment is a form of
radiation that differs
from conventional radiation in which x-rays are used.
difference is we can control inside the patient where most of
radiation is given off. We can actually start where the protons
off most of the radiation and stop them inside the patient. With
conventional x-rays, you cannot control them when a beam comes in."
other words, proton therapy treats cancerous tumors without
surrounding healthy tissue.
Proton therapy has become one of
the standard treatments for carcinoma
of the prostate, reports a recent
Proton Treatment Center Newsletter, a
publication from Loma Linda University.
"Radiation oncologists at Loma
Linda University Medical Center have played a
major part in
establishing that role. They did so by treating many patients
following them for many years; the resulting clinical research
shown that proton radiation treatment yields control rates equal
other radiation and surgical modalities, and does so at a much
cost in side effects and long-term problems related to treatment,"
Cancers of the head and neck are often treated
at the Center, and
improvements are being instituted that will allow those
breast cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer to be treated
protons. But the largest percentage of those treated are for
Between 1990, when the Proton Treatment Center
began, and January 2005,
nearly 30 percent of all patients treated with
proton therapy did so at
Loma Linda University Medical Center. The Center has
become a model for
worldwide training and research.
In response to a
question on whether the Center has received any
negative comments, Dr. Slater
says, "There's always opposition to
anything new and cutting edge as far as
I'm concerned. From the get-go
there was always the concern, 'would it work?
... Would it bankrupt the
institution?'" In the medical field, he says,
"physicians are natural
skeptics. If we don't know about it then it can't be
that good. The
biggest challenge has been educating not only patients, but
community [which] is by far the biggest challenge we've
"The ultimate vindication for that is people are copying what
doing. You don't copy failures."
"I have experienced no
permanent side effects. The quality of my life
hasn't changed one bit. I
couldn't have asked for better results," says
many other proton treatment patients, and he and his new
friends decided to
keep in touch, "compare notes as we continued our
healing journey," and
maintain their connection to Loma Linda
University by organizing a group
called "The Brotherhood of the
Balloon." He says, "The word of our group's
formation leaked out,
others asked to join, and we grew larger." They now
have 2,300 members
in all 50 states and 19 countries.
The group has
also referred more than 1,200 patients to Loma Linda
University and raised
more than U.S. $2.5 million for proton therapy
On the 15th
anniversary of the Proton Treatment Center in 2005, the
Brotherhood of the
Balloon presented a book of 100 testimonials to the
Center's developer, Dr.
James M. Slater, father of Dr. Jerry D. Slater.
"Every six months we prostate
cancer patients go through a little
ritual," he told the doctor. "We have our
blood drawn and have our PSA
measured. And, every six months when I get my
results, I say two
things: 'Thank you Lord.' And, 'Thank you Dr. Slater.' And
I know there
are a few thousand other prostate cancer patients out there who
saying the same thing."
The Proton Treatment Center helps Loma
Linda University, which
celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005, fulfill its
service. "It's just a unique thing, letting people know more about
Linda, what its mission is, what it's trying to do," Dr. Slater
"I think from an exposure point of view, it's been quite remarkable
it. I think once patients get here it also allows them to see what
do and how that really is what it's all about -- what this place is
about -- how we deal with people, how we're different from
institutions in what we do, not just in the technology, but also
just the human level."
Dr. Slater says he believes that within a
couple of decades there could
be 25 to 50 proton treatment centers in the
United States alone. He
reflects on the Center's past: "When we started it
was just us in a
hospital environment. Now you have three [such centers in
States], and two more scheduled to open this year. There's
half dozen or more in the planning stage. And they're all using
we've done as the model."
He explains that his father, Dr. James
M. Slater, M.D., had a dream
when he came to Loma Linda University in 1970.
"This has kind of been a
pet project of his for over 30 years. He had
training initially as a
physicist and went into medicine after that." He
realized, Dr. Slater
explains, that protons could alleviate many of the side
patients get with radiation. "Ultimately in 1986 he got the go-ahead
actually do it. ...I went to Boston and spent a year
everything I could about proton therapy to come back here and take
My father "deals primarily with the technology side and I do
clinical side. It works out very well," Dr. Slater explains.
Howard J. Tuggey, a retired colonel in the United States Army,
"Based on my personal experience at Loma Linda's Proton
Center and that of many others I have met, [I believe] it is by far
new gold standard without the unpleasant side effects often
in articles on radiation or surgery." He adds that complete
in the treatment has taken "all the stress out of my
"I cannot express how much I appreciate my doctor and case manager
Loma Linda, as well as the caring staff of true professionals. In
book, they are the best in the business. I hope the other
coming ... are as good."
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