Novel Treatments and Approaches to Cancer Care Are Making a Difference in Patient's Lives

Leading edge cancer treatments and programs at Baptist Health South Florida’s Miami Cancer Institute and Lynn Cancer Institute, patients are living longer, experiencing a better quality of life and navigating—what can feel like an overwhelming process— with ease.

At Miami Cancer Institute, a novel radiation technology is making a difference for patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer. The ViewRay MRIdian MR-Linac technology safely delivers an unprecedented high dose of radiation over just five consecutive days directly to the tumor using continuous real-time MRI scans. The images allow for treatment to be adapted daily to account for changes in the patient’s internal anatomy.

The Institute was the second cancer center in the United States to begin treating patients with the technology. Investigators from Miami Cancer Institute recently published the first clinical outcomes of chemotherapy followed by MR-guided stereotactic ablative radiation (SABR) therapy on an MR-Linac for inoperable pancreas cancer in Practical Radiation Oncology.

The study, which included 35 patients ranging in age from 34 to 89 years, used nearly twice the radiation dose that is safely deliverable on a standard radiation delivery machine. One year after SABR, nearly 90 percent of patients had their cancer controlled locally and almost 60 percent of patients were alive, both of which are favorable compared to historical outcomes with lower radiation doses. Some patients who initially had inoperable pancreatic cancer ultimately were able to undergo successful surgery because of their excellent response after SABR.

“A significant number of our patients have surpassed the expected survival rate for this deadly disease, with many alive several years after their initial diagnosis,” said Michael Chuong, M.D., director of MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy at Miami Cancer Institute and a radiation oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal cancers. He expects to publish long-term survival outcomes soon.

In addition, most patients experienced few, if any, side effects. “It is remarkable that we have seen such little treatment toxicity given the incredibly high radiation dose that is delivered to tumors in the pancreas that are surrounded by the stomach and intestines,” he said. “Patients are in and out within about an hour. They go back to work or play golf and do their normal activities.”

As part of Baptist Health, Miami Cancer Institute is the only cancer program in the world with all of the newest radiation therapies in one place and was the first in South Florida to offer proton therapy. A center that has a wide range of specialists and therapies such as Miami Cancer Institute is one that can develop an innovative and customized treatment plan for every patient.

In Palm Beach County, the Lynn Cancer Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, in addition to a strong technology focus, has an individualized and multidisciplinary approach to cancer care which is the cornerstone of their multimodality clinics model. This innovative approach to cancer care gives patients access to various experts under one roof in one visit. Physicians from different cancer sub-specialties, along with social workers, dietitians, geneticists, radiologists, pathologists and others meet to collectively provide expertise from all angles. Patients meet individually with key team members in one visit, at the same location—helping them navigate with ease what can seem overwhelming after a cancer diagnosis.

“You can have confidence, knowing your doctors are talking to each other,” said Louise Morrell, M.D., medical director of Lynn Cancer Institute. “In this multidisciplinary team approach, every specialist reviews the case and contributes input in a timely way. The treatment isn’t launched until everyone has weighed in on what would best suit the patient.”

Special multimodality clinics in breast, urologic/genitourinary, gastrointestinal, thoracic (lung), brain and skin cancers are offered weekly at Lynn Cancer Institute.