September 21, 2023

Cancer Care

Rocket-Powered Research

An Embry-Riddle research project tests how T-cells change in space.

Jason Garcia | 2/27/2018

Scot Ackerman
Ackerman Cancer Center / Jacksonville

Ackerman Cancer Center in Jacksonville began offering proton therapy three years ago. It is one of about 25 proton therapy centers in the U.S. and the first opened by a private physicians practice.

Proton therapy destroys cancer cells by using proton particles to deliver targeted doses of radiation. The treatment has less impact on surrounding tissue. And equipment costs are coming down from the $20 million to $30 million Ackerman paid.

In its first 2½ years, Ackerman has treated about 600 patients using proton therapy. According to a 2014 MD Anderson Cancer Center study, proton therapy cost 22% more than conventional radiation after the first 10 days of treatment. By the end of a full treatment cycle, the total cost was 6% higher but with fewer side effects. — Mark Basch

Prostate Cancer
Dr. George Suarez / Urologist

Urologist Dr. George Suarez, founder of International HIFU Centers, introduced in the U.S. the use of ultrasound energy to heat and destroy cancerous tissue in men with prostate cancer. Known as HIFU, the treatment doesn’t damage surrounding tissues and has lower risks of impotence and incontinence than traditional radiation, chemotherapy or surgery — down from 80% to 2%, and from 20% to 0.4%, Suarez says.

After seeing the treatment in use in Europe, Suarez had a friend, a physician in the Dominican Republic, purchase the machine for use at a private Catholic university in that country, where it was approved. Suarez began taking his patients to the Dominican Republic for treatment, at $20,000 each.

Noting how many procedures Suarez was doing in the Dominican Republic, the HIFU device maker, SonaCare, hired him to oversee U.S. clinical trials. Meanwhile, he opened other treatment sites outside the U.S.

“My recurrence rate at 10 years is 2%,” Suarez says. “The patient will have the procedure at, say, 8 o’clock in the morning, and by noon, he’s home having lunch. He has no pain. If he has any discomfort, he’ll take an Advil.” — Rochelle Broder-Singer

A New Attack
Matthew Pipkin / Cellular Biologist Scripps Florida, Jupiter

Scripps Florida scientist Matthew Pipkin and his collaborators discovered a protein — Runx3 — that teaches specialized diseasefighting white blood cells to latch onto tumors and sites of infection. Knowing how the white blood cells learn to leave the spleen and lymph nodes to kill germs and cancers is essential to developing cancer-fighting immunotherapies. The work was published in the journal Nature last year. Reinfusing a patient’s immune cells after they’ve been engineered to destroy cancer has worked “stunningly well,” according to Scripps, in some blood cancers, but not as well in solid tumors. Now that scientists know about Runx3’s function, they can work on getting cancer-fighting cells to amass in solid tumors. “It was a fantastic collaboration,” Pipkin says. — Mike Vogel


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Tags: Healthcare, Life Sciences, Research & Development, Technology/Innovation, Cancer Care, Economic Backbone

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