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NYPC 2021 Year in Review

Although COVID-19 remained an international public health concern, 2021 was a very strong year for the New York Proton Center. We provided lifesaving proton therapy to a growing number of men, women, and children from the New York area and beyond, many with highly complex cancers. At the same time, the number of clinical trials in our research program doubled from 11 to 22, and our professional education programs expanded.

 

This growth was made possible by the efforts of our extremely talented and dedicated staff and the unwavering commitment of our hospital partners – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Montefiore Health System, and Mount Sinai Health System. Together we are making proton therapy available to more people than ever.

Treating the most challenging tumors

We celebrated our 1,000th patient in March 2021, achieving this milestone faster than any other proton center in the United States. NYPC continues to attract patients from across the United States and around the world, with many originating from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Our patient case mix includes the most complex cancers in the world, including tumors located close to vital organs and others that were previously treated with radiation. For some of these patients, proton therapy is their only chance of cure.

Disease Site Mix

In 2021, 41% of our patients received reirradiation for a recurring tumor. In comparison, the average percentage of reirradiation cases among all proton centers nationally is 11%. Head and neck cancers continue to comprise more than 40% of patients treated at NYPC, compared to the national average of 14%. In addition, 9.6% of our patients received Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), compared to the national average of 0.8%.

Advancing proton therapy research

Eleven new research studies were opened to patients in 2021, bringing the total number of studies to 22 encompassing seven disease sites. Nearly all patients (98%) are enrolled on clinical trials. These studies not only help patients but also provide clinical evidence exploring the benefits of proton therapy that can help expand insurance coverage for treatment.

 

A significant milestone for our research program was the opening of our first investigator-initiated trial, a Phase II Study of Pencil Beam Scanning Proton Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) for Prostate Cancer. Men participating in this study receive a higher daily dose of proton therapy in just five fractions, far fewer than the standard treatment administered over as many as 26 fractions. The study’s goal is to assess genitourinary and gastrointestinal toxicity of proton SBRT compared to SBRT with photons.

 

In addition, our physicians and physicists published more than 75 peer reviewed articles in 2021 and delivered over 50 presentations at 13 national or international meetings. Among them were nine presentations at the ASTRO 63rd Annual Meeting in October. NYPC was also well represented at the 59th Annual Conference of the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG), with 13 invited research presentations. The annual meeting of the American College of Radiation Oncology (ACRO) included three NYPC presentations, and our physics team presented their research in sessions at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

FLASH Therapy

One of the most exciting research developments is in FLASH radiotherapy, a potential game-changer that can reduce treatment from several weeks to a single treatment delivered in just seconds. NYPC is emerging as a leader in FLASH physics, planning, and dosimetry. We are a lead participant in Varian’s FlashForward Consortium, and our physicists have published multiple articles on the technology in high-impact journals. In 2022, we will begin planning for a research room dedicated to FLASH therapy.

A global destination for proton therapy education

Physicians, physicists, and dosimetrists from nine new proton centers in Asia, Europe, and the United States have participated in training programs at the New York Proton Center. Sponsored by Varian, the offerings include a Proton Therapy Physician Clinical School, Dosimetry Training, and a Proton Therapy Physics Commissioning Course given by faculty comprised of NYPC physicians, physicists and dosimetrists. NYPC has also become a preferred destination for training rotations for medical and physics residents, and research fellows from the United States and around the world.

 

We also are a training site for Radiation Therapy students from the Mount Sinai Center for Radiation Therapy Education at Stony Brook University, providing the next generation of radiation therapists with proton experience. Students shadow NYPC radiation therapists during two-week observational rotations in proton therapy.

Enhancing patient experience

We are committed to supporting our patients throughout their cancer treatment—in mind, body and spirit. In addition to providing a physical environment designed to promote reassurance and calm, we offer a variety of supportive services during and after treatment.

  • Many of our patients receive nutrition guidance from our registered dietician nutritionist, free of charge. Nutrition counseling is of interest to many people diagnosed with cancer, and especially for head and neck tumor patients who may experience treatment side effects that can make it difficult to eat a regular diet.
  • Our social work team is available to patients and families for a broad range of services including supportive counseling, transportation arrangements, referrals to community agencies and support groups, and assistance applying for grants to cover healthcare expenses not covered by insurance. For patients coming to NYPC from outside the New York area, our social workers can assist with letters requesting a visa and advise on finding local accommodations.
  • Our Child Life Specialist uses age-appropriate activities to help children understand what to expect during treatment sessions. Every child’s last treatment is celebrated with a bell-ringing and presentation of a toy from the supply gathered during the annual holiday toy drive organized by our employees.

 

 

We believe that exceptional care does not end on the last day of treatment and are building the foundation for a Patient Alumni Network that will formally launch in 2022. The program will provide peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities and a variety of educational programs.

Other accomplishments from 2021:

  • Dr. Simone was named President of the Proton Collaborative Group (PCG). The PCG is the largest research consortium for proton therapy in the world and is comprised of radiation oncologists and clinical researchers from 17 member institutions.
  • Haibo Lin, PhD, Director of Medical Physics, was elected President-Elect of the Radiological and Medical Physics Society (RAMPS).
Our patient case mix includes the most complex cancers in the world, including tumors located close to vital organs and others that were previously treated with radiation.

Archive

2020 Annual Report

How can we help?

Want to find out if proton therapy might be a good fit for you or your patient? Call us at 833-NYPROTON (833-697-7686) or fill out the appropriate form below.