High Tech Medicine
Before an estimated crowd
of almost 1,000 local cancer survivors, medical staff members
and community leaders, Anne Arundel Medical Center recently unveiled
plans for a $13 million expansion of its cancer center just a
year after its move from downtown Annapolis to a new $65 million
hospital near the Annapolis mall.
Adding drama to the occasion was the announcement that Anne Arundel
County resident Geaton A. DeCesaris Jr. and his family have made
a $3 million gift to Anne Arundel Medical Center, the largest
donation in the hospital's 101-year history. In appreciation of
their generosity, the oncology program at AAMC will be named the
Geaton A. and JoAnn DeCesaris Cancer Institute.
Making the event even more meaningful was the presence of champion
cyclist Lance Armstrong, the four-time Tour de France winner who
had just been named "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated
magazine. But Lance was not wearing his bike helmet for this event.
He was in Annapolis as a symbol of hope and courage for cancer
survivors and their families, who had been invited to celebrate
the official announcement of the million-dollar expansion.
The centerpiece of this expansion is Novalis shaped-beam surgery,
a precise and non-invasive form of stereotactic radiosurgery for
the treatment of cancerous tumors. Armstrong, who has made a remarkable
recovery from cancers of the testicles, brain and lung is the
author of the best-selling autobiography entitled It's Not About
the Bike and is spokesperson for BrainLAB, Inc., the company that
pro-duces the Novalis equipment.
According to Stanley P. Watkins, medical di-rector of AAMC's oncology
program, Novalis integrates state-of-the-art imaging and targeting
software with a high-energy shaped-beam delivery system to obliterate
tumors without damaging the normal surrounding tissues. By combining
many precisely shaped beams, each directed toward the tumor but
from a different angle, it is possible to achieve a tumor-killing
dose where the beams intersect, while leaving healthy tissue unharmed.
The outpatient process is totally non-invasive and most patients
can return to their normal routine the following day.
Carolyn Core, vice president of corporate services and acting
executive director of the cancer center, says that initially the
hospital's board of trustees considered constructing a new building
for the cancer center but decided instead to put $4 million into
"bricks and mortar" by retrofitting and enlarging the existing
Donner Pavilion and allocate the remaining funds---$9 million---for
the latest technology for cancer diagnosis and treatment. "We
earmarked the bulk of the funds to acquire the state-of-the-art
technology that will give patients the best treatment available,"
she says. "AAMC is the only Novalis site in the entire mid-Atlantic
Dr. Watkins says Maryland's high cancer mortality rate has prompted
hospital leadership to devote its resources to meeting the needs
of the region. "Not only are we acquiring the most advanced technology,
we also have the medical experts on our staff to lead the way
toward preventing, diagnosing and treating all types of cancer.
With this advanced technology and medical expertise, we'll be
able to offer the highest level of care to our patients."
The Novalis team is made up of neurosurgeons Timothy G. Burke,
M.D., Thomas B. Ducker, M.D., Clifford T. Solomon, M.D., and Brian
J. Sullivan, M.D.; radiation oncologists Angel E. Torano, M.D.,
and Mary Young, M.D.; clinical medical physicist Robert L. Siddon,
Ph.D., and oncology nurse Beth Jernigan, R.N., M.S., O.C.N.
"The strength of what we have here at Anne Arundel Medical Center
is not just the technology," says Dr. Solomon. "We have experts
across the spectrum with the knowledge base, the ability to work
together and the commitment to the patients in our region. It's
a multi-specialty group and a rare interdepartmental relationship
made up of medical oncologists, neurosurgeons, physicists and
nurses---all working together to give hope to our patients."
Dr. Siddon, former chief of clinical physics at Harvard Medical
School and associate professor of health sciences and technology
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was instrumental
in the development of the software that Novalis uses to direct
the shaped beams of radiation. Internationally recognized as a
pioneer in stereotactic radiosurgery, he has authored more than
50 papers on radiation oncology.
In addition to Novalis, AAMC's cancer center has acquired a PET/CT
hybrid scanner, a cutting edge diagnostic tool that merges x-rays
with images of metabolic changes in the body to reveal abnormal,
or cancerous, growths. "Our new cancer-fighting technology is
truly new age," says Core. "The hospital is partnering with GEMS
(General Electric Medical Systems) and BrainLAB Varian Medical
Systems to bring this technology to our region. With these new
tools, AAMC will be able to diagnose and treat cancer with unprecedented
accuracy and effectiveness."
The PET/CT scanner provides physicians with a much clearer view
of the anatomy and metabolic activity in the body. "It's a little
like looking at a TV weather map," says Core. "The geographic
map of the United States is similar to the CT scan of the human
anatomy. The Doppler radar screen is like the PET scan providing
images of metabolic changes in the body. Separately, each offers
important diagnostic information, but when you merge them, you
get a more in-depth analysis and precise location of any suspicious
activity." According to Core, AAMC and Johns Hopkins are the only
two hospitals in the state with this technology.
Along with these two dynamic new tools, the hospital is replacing
its two Varian linear accelerators with two new ones equipped
with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), multileaf collimation
(MLC) and digital port imaging.
AAMC is actively involved in several clinical trials in oncology.
These studies are conducted in conjunction with large cooperative
groups such as the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG),
the Radiation Oncology Group (RTOG), the National Surgical Adjuvant
Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) and the Southwestern Oncology
Group (SWOG). Clinical trials offer AAMC opportunities to expand
treatment and prevention opportunities for patients throughout
the region. AAMC's Clinical Trials Department also collaborates
with the newly formed NCI-sponsored Clinical Trials Support Unit
(CTSU), The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center and East Carolina University.
AAMC, founded in 1902 as a community hospital for residents of
the state capital of Annapolis, has evolved into a regional medical
center serving a population area of 650,000 in Anne Arundel County
as well as parts of Prince George's and Calvert counties and the
Eastern Shore. Because of the cancer center expansion, hospital
officials expect to draw patients from states throughout the mid-Atlantic.
"These are exciting times for all of us at Anne Arundel Medical
Center and for residents of the Annapolis area," says hospital
president Martin L. Doordan. "We are fortunate to have the perfect
marriage of high tech and high touch---and we are determined to
keep that balance intact."