For many cancer patients, proton therapy offers a more effective and precise radiation treatment option. However, for Southwest Florida residents, the nearest access to proton therapy is several hours away. But according to Dr. Arie Dosoretz, the managing partner at Advocate Radiation Oncology, that soon will change, although a specific location has not yet been announced.
“Advocate Radiation Oncology is honored to bring proton therapy to Florida’s west coast, giving cancer patients improved access to the most advanced radiation care available,” Dosoretz says. “[Right now] patients seeking proton therapy must often travel across the state … to receive this type of treatment. Not only does this enhance access to proton therapy [in Southwest Florida], it greatly improves the quality of life for patients and their families when they can receive innovative care close to home.”
Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation that allows physicians to target tumors and cancer cells with greater accuracy. As it also lessens the amount of radiation received by nearby healthy tissue, that precise targeting also produces fewer side effects. While those benefits have been well-documented, Dosoretz said the complexity, size and cost of proton therapy centers have mostly limited its availability to bigger cities and larger population bases. “Proton therapy is a different physical form of radiation made by proton machines, which are much bigger, much more complicated to operate and require special housing and special training,” Dosoretz says. “The difference between proton therapy and [more common forms of ] radiation is that protons, when you aim them at something physically … literally will stop within a millimeter or even submillimeter of your target. We can create a dose that is much more specific for the shape of the target. That neighboring tissue nearby is going to be spared.” In addition to the physical advantages of proton therapy, Dosoretz noted access to that treatment will provide significant mental and emotional benefits to Southwest Florida patients, as well.
“Proton centers are so few and far between that people will sometimes fly across the country for that (treatment). Most patients are typically getting anywhere from four to nine weeks of radiation daily, if not every other day,” he says. “When they’re in the middle of a health crisis, it is a lot better for patients’ quality of life, mental health and every other aspect of their life to be able to do that within driving distance of their homes.”
Finally, while the Advocate Radiation Oncology proton therapy facility will ultimately provide greater access to state-of-the-art medical technology for a broader population, Dosoretz admitted some hometown pride is also involved.
“The number of patients who have access to proton therapy in the world, let alone in the United States, let alone in Florida, is minuscule compared to the number of patients who have access to traditional radiation,” Dosoretz says. “There’s going to be a tremendous number of patients who will now have access to this technology. I’m especially proud to bring world-class cancer care to Southwest Florida.”