Track Legend and PT
Prostate Cancer Survivor
Prostate Cancer Study
Big Ten Network
Features Proton Therapy
Fox News Health
PhiladelphiaFox29 features Dr. James Metz
MDACCO in the News
Proton Community Forum
By Paul Sisson; February 19, 2014 San Diego Union-Tribune
Scripps radiation therapist Ivette Martinez, left, and lead radiation therapist Lauren Mascia, prepare prostate cancer patient Larry Tritschler for a proton treatment at the new Scripps Proton Therapy Center in Mira Mesa Tuesday. Tritschler is the first patient to be treated at the center. — Howard Lipin
What started as a proton therapy competition among two of the region’s largest health systems has ended in collaboration.
Today, at a grand opening ceremony for a new proton therapy center that bears its name, Scripps Health will announce a new affiliation agreement with Rady Children’s Hospital and UC San Diego Health System. The deal will allow doctors from both organizations to treat their own cancer patients in the new $220 million Mira Mesa facility.
Proton therapy is at the cutting edge of cancer treatment. It uses charged particles to kill tumors with less radiation exposure to surrounding tissue than other available technologies.
It was not long ago that the university was pursuing a $200 million proton plan of its own. But, though Scripps and UC San Diego compete for patients every day, their executives said they decided that working together made better sense.
Paul Viviano, chief executive of the university health system, said he met with Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder a week after starting work in 2012.
“To have two of them less than 10 miles apart, for a community, makes no sense,” Viviano said.
Van Gorder said he always viewed the facility as a resource that would need to be shared.
“Because the three of us are working together, we’re able to bring a technology to San Diego that just wasn’t here before,” Van Gorder said.
The center began treating its first patient, 81-year-old Larry Tritschler of San Marcos, for prostate cancer on Feb. 12.
Scripps is the 15th health system in the nation to offer proton therapy and the only one in California to offer the latest generation, which uses a sophisticated computer guidance system to more precisely control dose location and strength. Scripps will manage the center, but it is owned by a private investment group, Advanced Particle Therapy.
Van Gorder said a collaborative agreement with Rady and the university allows each operator to have its own radiation oncologists care for patients in the center’s five treatment rooms.
Though the facility will bear the Scripps name and the health system will manage the operation, Van Gorder said steps will be taken to make sure that the public knows that this is a collaborative effort.
“While our name may be on the building, it’s going to be very obvious that it is a jointly operated facility with all three organizations participating,” Van Gorder said.
With their focuses on children and research, Rady and UC San Diego have the ability to bring critical patient populations to the proton center.
Because it irradiates less tissue than X-ray based treatments, protons are viewed as ideal for treating children.
Dr. Donald Kearns, chief medical officer and acting president at Rady, said a handful of local patients are already traveling to proton facilities in Texas, Oklahoma City or even Boston for treatment of rare brain tumors because the therapy causes less radiation exposure to surrounding tissue.
“Not having to travel so far, this is going to be a huge win for the children in this community and probably for the kids on the West Coast,” Kearns said.
The arrangement with Scripps and Advanced Particle Therapy allows Rady and UCSD radiation oncologists to see their own patients at the facility, rather than transferring them into the care of a Scripps doctor.
This makes all the difference for Rady because treating children takes a special approach, Kearns said.
“We learn the nuances and we have a passion for it,” he said.
The proton center will include a special entrance for Rady patients and a separate area with anesthesia beds. Though adult patients usually receive treatment while awake, many young children need to be sedated to keep them from moving when radiation is delivered. Kearns said most proton centers do not have special areas for children, making the Scripps facility ideal.
“The ability to do anesthesia right there on site is the game-changing thing for us,” Kearns said.
Rady also collaborates regularly with UCSD on medical research, another reason executives said they were excited about the new collaborative agreement.
Viviano of UCSD said that, as one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, UCSD will be able to help advance research into the efficacy of proton therapy.
“This is very rich, fertile ground for research grants and research studies. We hope to help answer the question about when (proton therapy) will benefit patients without debate or dispute,” Viviano said.
He said it was critical for Scripps to allow UCSD oncologists free access to see their own patients in the center because Moores Cancer Center, the health system’s main cancer treatment group, relies on a team-based approach.
“Once you start your cancer treatment, you want to maintain that continuity. When I go see my physician, I want to make sure that he is guiding my care, because he knows my history and he knows the details of what I’ve encountered in the past,” Viviano said.
Van Gorder said that the agreement allows doctors to do separate billing for the patients they treat at the center. Scripps will also receive a management fee from Advanced Particle Therapy for running the facility.
The executive said he also approached other systems, including Kaiser and Sharp HealthCare, about participating in the proton center. While no deals have yet been put together, Van Gorder said Scripps is still open to the idea.
“If other organizations want to get involved, we’ll try to accommodate them,” Van Gorder said.
> Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments about this web site.