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Contact Information: Theresa Makrush | PH 904.798.3199 | tmakrush@shepherdagency.com

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University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute Leads in Pediatric Cancer Care

January 10, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Since the opening of the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in 2006, a team of dedicated pediatric radiation oncologists and medical professionals have worked to create a world-class pediatric program.  Over the past three years, the facility has treated more than 300 pediatric patients from around the world, making it one of the busiest pediatric proton therapy centers.

In December, five-year-old Audrey Anderson and her family traveled from around the globe for proton therapy in Jacksonville, a treatment not offered in Australia.  Audrey has a craniopharyngioma; an uncommon type of brain tumor located a few inches behind her eyes.   In children with craniopharyngiomas and other brain tumors, proton therapy offers a new opportunity to spare healthy tissue from the damaging effects of radiation.  In a growing child with a tumor in Audrey’s location, side effects from radiation can permanently impact vision, maturation and cognition.
Sue Anderson, Audrey’s mother, said she was impressed by the proton therapy center’s expertise in treating brain tumors in children, particularly craniopharyngiomas.  Even the busiest United States hospitals may see only one or two children with craniopharyngiomas per year, but the UF Proton Therapy Institute has treated more than 35 cases in the last two years. 

Due to the limited number of pediatric proton programs around the world, 85 percent of children at UF Proton Therapy Institute, like Audrey, travel great distances to Jacksonville for treatment. The proton treatment center in Jacksonville houses one of the busiest pediatric proton programs in the world.

“Pediatric brain tumors are rare but life threatening. The high volume of children treated at the UF Proton Therapy Institute results in greater familiarity, specialization, and competency across all facets of the program,” said Dr. Danny Indelicato, UF Proton Therapy Institute pediatric radiation oncologist. “We pride ourselves in providing not just proton therapy, but a full service pediatric oncology program that supports the patient, siblings and parents during their time in Jacksonville.”

A diverse team of specialists work with pediatric radiation oncologists to make a child’s and their family’s stay during a six-to-eight week treatment period as comfortable as possible.  These team members include a pediatric social worker, an artist in residence, a child life specialist, school tutors, four dedicated pediatric nurses, a full pediatric anesthesia team and over a dozen radiation technologists with years of experience treating children with tumors. This team, in partnership with colleagues at Jacksonville’s Nemours Children’s Clinic and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, provide a comprehensive approach to managing pediatric cancer patients that is unique to other programs.
Sue Anderson said the additional attention was a deciding factor in choosing Jacksonville for treatment. “It appears that the care of our child has always been their first priority and secondly they did not forget about us in the process,” said Sue Anderson.

“All of our patients from out of town are embraced not only by the staff at the UF Proton Therapy Institute but the greater community of Jacksonville,” said Stuart Klein, Executive Director of UF Proton Therapy Institute. “I am certain the Anderson’s from Australia will be no different.”

UF Proton Therapy Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization affiliated with the UF College of Medicine, dedicated to delivering state-of-the-art cancer treatment and setting new standards for treating and curing cancer. The cancer treatment facility houses both conventional radiation and proton therapy, and delivers proton therapy to 110 patients a day. For more information about the UF Proton Therapy Institute, please visit www.floridaproton.org, or call toll-free 877-686-6009.

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