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Next-Generation Cancer Treatment


Expanding by 53,000 square feet, Willis-Knighton will be among the first in the world to provide a new type of radiation therapy


The diagnosis of cancer can be devastating. Once the decision is made to fight the cancer, the Willis-Knighton Cancer Center is the choice for local innovative care, thanks to its quest to seek and acquire leading-edge technology and services with constant attention to improving patient care for the community. This patient-centered approach has led to incredible growth since it opened in 2000. In the past decade the Cancer Center has logged more than half a million patient encounters, and the numbers continue to increase.

This phenomenal growth has spurred expansion of the Cancer Center and its services. The three story, 53,000-square-foot expansion, an investment of some $40 million, will provide the physicians and patients with additional chemotherapy suites, medical office space, expansion of patient support services and a new proton therapy center. Willis-Knighton’s firm financial foundation as well as the foresight of its administration and board of trustees has allowed for the expansion and the purchase of this cutting edge technology.

Greater Access to Care

Michael Moore, MD, medical oncologist, has seen the dramatic growth over the years. “The new addition will allow patients more rapid and complete access to new therapies and additional clinical protocols, greatly enhancing the patient experience,” he says.

The expansion also allows for the enlargement of Hematology/Oncology Associates, the clinic where Dr. Moore is a partner, as well as other oncology specialties like gynecologic oncology. This additional capacity, particularly added space for chemotherapy suites, will allow the physicians to treat more patients in a comfortable, attractive environment. To further enhance the patient experience, patient support services will also expand with additional capacity for social services such as patient/family counseling and support groups, nutritional assistance from a registered dietitian, and the Caddo-Bossier Cancer Foundation League, an organization that offers assistance with such needs as transportation, lodging and personal items to patients being treated at the Cancer Center.

The Next Step

One of the most exciting additions will be an innovative form of radiation treatment: proton therapy. “Next-generation radiation therapy” is the motto for Radiation Oncology Services, the radiation oncology group at Willis-Knighton Cancer Center. Lane Rosen, MD, director of radiation oncology for the center, is a founder of that group, which includes physicians and radiation physicists. They were among the first in the world to offer intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a specialized form of 3-D therapy, and later to pioneer the use of TomoTherapy. These doctors recognized that if they were to continue to offer patients the best cancer care available, proton therapy was the next logical step.


“Adding proton therapy coincides with the substantial growth of the entire cancer center,” says Willis-Knighton President and CEO James K. Elrod. “The demand for these services necessitates the expansion, and we are pleased to be able to provide them. Willis-Knighton is committed to providing the most contemporary therapy to patients who have entrusted us with their care.”

Proton therapy allows radiation oncologists to spare healthy tissue even more than with traditional radiation advancements. Proton therapy is the most advanced and precisely targeted cancer treatment, providing superior radiation dose distribution and thereby delivering higher doses of radiation to the tumor without increasing the risk of negative side effects and long-term complications. This improves patient outcomes and provides for a better quality of life. Large national studies have already demonstrated reduced rates of late radiation induced malignancies with proton therapy. Another large proton trial in prostate cancer demonstrated the best PSA-based outcomes with reduced side effects to organs near the prostate.

Until now, proton therapy has been cost-prohibitive for all but the largest cancer centers. The majority of proton therapy centers are based at teaching hospitals and not community hospitals such as Willis-Knighton. The financial stability of Willis-Knighton has permitted the health system to purchase the sophisticated equipment and undertake the complex construction project to house it without having to seek donors, as most cancer centers do. This means the equipment and facility are designed to meet the specifications of the physicians and physicists—what they need and want for their patients—rather than being designed based on how much has been donated.

A World First

NEXTGENERATION CANCER TREATMENTThe radiation oncologists at Willis-Knighton have chosen Belgian manufacturer Ion Beam Applications (IBA) to implement the proton therapy system at the Cancer Center. IBA, a world leader in proton therapy, has designed a proton therapy system with a smaller footprint and substantially lower cost. IBA’s ProteusONE™ will offer an even more technologically advanced form of proton therapy known as pencil beam scanning, which Dr. Rosen believes will be the gold standard of therapy for the future.

“We’re very pleased to be the pioneers of IBA’s new proton beam solution,” Dr. Rosen says. “We’re excited about the opportunity to be the very first in the world to use IBA’s compact pencil beam scanning technology with image guidance.”

The size of the ProteusONE™ vault is about 3,700 square feet, or the size of two average-sized houses. Unlike previous larger proton systems, this single-treatment-room solution may be housed in an addition to an existing facility, as is planned at the Cancer Center. ProteusONE™ is composed of a cyclotron that speeds a proton to two-thirds the speed of light, an integrated cone beam CT for ultra precise image guidance, and a patient-friendly treatment room designed to enhance patient comfort and relieve anxiety.

Exciting Opportunity

“We’ve been pursuing the prospect of a cost-effective proton solution for many years,” Dr. Rosen says. “When IBA announced its plans for ProteusONE™, we jumped at the opportunity. Our facility will serve as the international show site for the next generation of cancer care.”

When it opens, the Willis-Knighton Cancer Center Proton Therapy Center will be one of only nine in the United States and is expected to attract patients from a wide geographic region.