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Precision with a Purpose

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In 2013, cancer care at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine took a significant step forward with the addition of groundbreaking procedures that offer far-reaching benefits for patients.

Patients with cancer near vital organs such as the spine, brain, heart and eyes now have better treatment options. The S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center, which opened in December 2013, provides proton therapy to adult patients of the Siteman Cancer Center and pediatric patients of St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

 Siteman Cancer Center has the only proton center in Missouri and the surrounding area.

“Proton therapy is unique because it allows for very precise adjustments to the radiation beam, so we can precisely target tumors,” says Jeffrey Bradley, MD, director of the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center. “It helps to minimize damage to surrounding tissue and is especially useful when treating growing children.”

Traditional radiation methods send radiation beams all the way through the patient’s body to treat a tumor. Proton therapy allows radiation oncologists to control the depth of the radiation beam to protect surrounding tissues and organs. Proton therapy also allows radiation oncologists to send higher doses of radiation to the tumor while decreasing side effects.

Siteman has the only proton therapy center in Missouri and the surrounding area. The nearest location offering proton therapy is 225 miles away. The Kling Proton Therapy Center is also the first single-vault proton center in the country. Other locations use proton generators that must be housed in football field-sized buildings, which can cost up to $150 million. Siteman’s proton generator fits in a fraction of the space for a fraction of the cost.

The Proton Therapy Center was named in honor of the late S. Lee Kling, a visionary St. Louisan who passed away in 2008. Before he died, he went to the East Coast to receive proton therapy for an eye tumor. Lee, the former chairman of The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s board of directors, believed the therapy should be more accessible and available to patients in the area. His commitment to bring this care to St. Louis led to the creation of the S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology, established through the Foundation. The chair, now held by Dr. Jeff Bradley, supports radiation oncology research and treatment at Siteman, with an emphasis on proton beam therapy. With Lee’s support, Dr. Bradley was instrumental in bringing proton therapy to St. Louis.

Better Views Mean Better Results

Another technology now available at Siteman is ViewRay™, an MRI-guided radiation therapy system. The ViewRay allows radiation oncologists to guide doses of radiation precisely and accurately, with real-time visualization of the tumors they are treating.

Many cancers, especially those in the abdomen and pelvis, can be difficult to see using traditional imaging techniques. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) highlights soft tissue better. With traditional radiation therapy, radiation oncologists often create treatment plans based on static images before and after each treatment. However, ViewRay combines radiation treatment with a continuous picture of the tissue being treated during radiation therapy so doctors can tell immediately what changes are occurring in the tumor and healthy surrounding tissue.

“With ViewRay, we know precisely when a tumor shifts,” says Dennis Hallahan, MD, chair of radiation oncology. “This allows us to spare healthy tissue, reduce side effects and improve a patient’s overall outcome. It’s one more advance in personalized cancer care.”

Every day, researchers are closer to a cure for cancer. If you would like to be part of this progress, please make a gift to The Cancer Frontier Fund (#6792) at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

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