WE CAN. I CAN

World Cancer Day: Provision CARES Proton Therapy Impacts of Cancer Care in East Tennessee

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Provision has treated almost 2,000 patients with proton therapy in Knoxville, Tennessee. These patients traveled from all over the United States and the world to receive the most advanced form of cancer treatment. Proton therapy benefit from reduced side effects and improved quality of life compared to those who receive conventional radiation therapy or surgery.

Sunday, February 4th, is an important day in the eyes of many. Many people will be gathered with friends and family cheering on their favorite NFL team, watching the nation’s most expensive commercials, or snacking on chips and salsa. However, to Provision CARES Proton Therapy, February 4th means a lot more. It is World Cancer Day, a day to raise awareness about cancer and how it affects people and communities across the globe. (more…)

Dowell Springs Campus

History of Dowell Springs

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The Lonas Family Legacy

“Many prayers were said over this land. That it would be used for something beneficial for our community and that it would be a blessing to all who visit…” Dowell Springs is a special place for many people in our community and visitors from near and far. Not only is the campus home to the Historic Lonas farmhouse, it is home to Provision CARES Proton Therapy. The beauty of the property and the magnificent views from the buildings bring a calm and healing atmosphere to all visit.  (more…)

Provision is first in Knoxville and the state of Tennessee to achieve ASTRO’s APEx Accreditation Certificate

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After months of preparing and a thorough review process, we are proud to announce Provision CARES Proton Therapy-Knoxville is the first radiation facility in the state of Tennessee and the first private practice proton center to receive the official certificate of ASTRO’s Accreditation Program for Excellence (“APEx”).  APEx is an independent radiation oncology practice accreditation program developed by ASTRO, American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, based on a comprehensive set of sixteen evidence-based standards of radiation oncology practice.

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New proton therapy cancer center to open across from Williamson Medical Center

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A cancer treatment center specializing in proton therapy, an increasingly popular treatment, is set to open in the summer of 2018.

Provision Healthcare, a clinical provider and developer of cancer treatments, will open a Provision CARES Cancer Center on Carothers Parkway, across from Williamson Medical Center, said Dr. Terry Douglass, Ph.D., the executive chair of Provision.

Proton therapy, said Douglass, is a form of advanced radiation technology that impairs the DNA of cancer cells and causes them to die.

Unlike traditional radiation methods, a machine called a cyclotron is used to pinpoint cancer cells, targeting diseased cells while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.

“It’s like using a rifle compared to a shotgun,” Douglass said of the therapy.

“We developed a new technology that is a lower cost, that uses smaller and lighter technology,” Douglass said of the 200-ton machine which is used to treat cancer.

In traditional chemotherapy or radiation techniques, side effects are common. But with proton therapy, Douglass said side effects are less pronounced; he also said numerous data support the use of proton therapy, including better long-term outcomes for patients.

The treatment is becoming more common for illnesses like prostate cancer, but studies show mixed results, not conclusively supporting the treatment as better than traditional radiation.

Proton therapy centers are popping up across the country. According to the National Association of Proton Therapy, there are currently 26 proton therapy centers in operation with 11 under construction or in development.

The Franklin location will be the company’s second center in Tennessee. The original campus opened in January of 2014 in Knoxville. Planned expansions in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida, are in the works, said Douglass.

Of the decision to be based in Franklin, Douglass said the surrounding health care centers and climate of technological innovation made it a good choice, noting Tennessee Oncology and Vanderbilt as two top-notch cancer treatment centers.

Douglass said the spot on Carothers Parkway, in a central location with easy access to the interstate, would make it easy for patients from Tennessee, as well as Kentucky and Alabama, to reach the center.

“These patients are here from four to eight weeks. They get five treatments Monday through Friday, then they have the weekend off,” he said. “We were looking for a site that would be amenable to the patients.”

“Being near the Williamson County Medical Center was very important to us as well,” he continued. “Franklin has just become a hub of healthcare services.”

In addition to the center, the company will build 72,000 square feet of office space, which Douglass said will house medical companies including Tennessee Oncology and drug discovery and trials for the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center.

Mary Lou DuBois, the president of Provision Health Partners, said the location will open some time this summer, and will hire 75 to 80 employees to staff the center.

“We’re about developing a culture of care that is totally focused on the patient and walking through and with them as they’re on their journey,” she said of center’s mission.

In 2005, Provision Healthcare was founded by Douglass in Knoxville. The organization operates as a for-profit healthcare solutions company, while both the Knoxville and Franklin cancer centers are non-profits.

“New proton therapy cancer center to open across from Williamson Medical Center.” Brooke Wanser, Brentwood HomePage

It’s like NASA landed in Franklin: Proton-therapy center nears completion

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After nearly two years of construction, Provision CARES Proton Therapy Nashville is nearing completion of its $100 million cancer-treatment center — minus some areas of the roof.

That’s because crews still need to lower a 28-foot-diameter gantry — a structure about the size of an above-ground pool that rotates around a patient during therapy, allowing treatment from different angles —into place at the 45,000-square-foot facility.

PHOTO BY JOEL STINNETT

It will be the second center for Knoxville-based Provision CARES, which provides proton-radiation treatment for cancer patients. The Franklin campus will also include a 72,000-square-foot medical office building at the cost of $18 million. Both buildings are being funded by tax-exempt bonds issued by the Williamson County Industrial Development Board and are expected to be completed in the summer of 2018.

The gantry, however, is relatively light lifting over at the 11-acre site. In July, a 220-ton particle accelerator, almost the same weight as the Statue of Liberty, was delivered to the facility. Rod Manning, service and maintenance manager at Provision CARES subsidiary ProNova Solutions, said the massive piece of equipment, called a cyclotron, was lowered into place by a 440-ton crane, the largest in Tennessee.

“It’s like NASA landed in Franklin,” Manning said.

Proton therapy delivers a high dose of radiation through a beam and, according to Provision CARES Director of Medical Physics Marc Blakey, has fewer side effects than traditional X-ray radiation.

Blakey said he can plot exactly where cancer is in the body and attack it while sparing surrounding tissue.

“The beam enters and only goes as deep as the tumor. It doesn’t exit the body,” Blakey said. “This allows for a higher dose because we can avoid critical structures.”

The cyclotron acts as the engine in the process, producing beams of protons into one of three gantries enclosed with two-meter thick doors made of lead-reinforced concrete. Most treatments only last a few minutes; Blakey said the center could facilitate up to 90 patients a day.

The two-story building will also house work areas for Gilda’s Club of Tennessee and Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation. Hamilton is on the board at Provision CARES and will have an office at the center.

Tara Mullaney, vice president at Provision CARES, said the inside of the building is designed to feel like a hotel more than a medical facility. Each dressing room will be outfitted with TVs and will have their own themes. The waiting room will a kids play area and a large bell to be rung every time a patient completes the entirety of their treatment.

“Cancer patients are going through enough so we want to make them as comfortable as possible,” Mullaney said. “They are coming here every day so they get to know the staff and feel welcomed.”

Mullaney said that while proton treatment isn’t new — the first center opened in the 1990s — it’s still not widely known. She said that’s because the initial investment for equipment is so high and not all insurance plans cover the therapy, where treatment costs about $2,000 per visit.

The word, however, is spreading, Mullaney said. The Franklin facility will be the 26th proton-treatment center in the nation, up from 13 five years ago, and Provision CARES has plans to build three more centers, she said. Those will be in Orlando, New Orleans and China.

Mullaney said ProNova, a Provision subsidiary, is also designing ways to decrease the size of equipment, therefore making it less expensive to access proton treatment.

“We are always thinking of ways to get better,” Mullaney said. “Franklin costs considerably less than the center in Knoxville because of the reduction in size of equipment and smaller footprint.”

“It’s like NASA landed in Franklin:’ Proton-therapy center nears completion.” Joel Stinnett, Nashville Business Journal

Throat cancer patient high on proton therapy

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When Terry Vinson first felt a small grown the size of a pinkie fingertip on his neck, he dismissed it as a harmless cyst.

Even two weeks later, when it had doubled into the size of a thumb and then doubled again the following week, he had not yet sought medical help.

“I’m in medical sales,” Vinson says. “I should have known better.” (more…)

Down but not out—fight for proton therapy continues

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It was a promising year for legislation that would nudge insurance companies toward coverage of proton therapy for cancer patients.

However, after two bills promoting commercial payment for proton therapy were tabled in Tennessee House of Representatives committees, it’s the third year such bills have met with the same result. In both cases the House committees failed to take up a vote on the measures, leaving them to essentially die on the vine—at least for this legislative year.

While the measures didn’t pass, there were some positives takeaways. The bills were proposed by legislators themselves and had grassroots support. This showed that local awareness of proton therapy is growing and that our legislators are increasingly viewing it as an important cancer treatment option.

We encourage patients and their families to connect with their legislators, whatever the state, to promote the importance of proton therapy and encourage insurance coverage. A bill promoting the use of proton therapy passed in the Oklahoma state legislature last year and this year a proton therapy measure was proposed in Virginia, in addition to the two in Tennessee.

But legislation is not the only tactic for combatting the problem of insurance coverage.

Provision will work to increase public awareness of insurance companies’ failure to widely cover proton therapy for cancer patients—resulting in some patients seeking alternative treatments with undesirable side effects or scrambling to pay the costs out of their own pockets, according to Scott Warwick, vice president of program development and strategic initiatives for Provision Center for Proton Therapy

“We believe when the public realizes that insurance companies are preventing patients from getting the medical care they need, they will help put direct pressure on insurance companies to pay for proton therapy,” he says.

Another strategy is for companies that are self-insured is to request providers add proton therapy coverage to their policies. Provision, for example, covers its own employees for proton therapy through Cigna. Seventy percent of people covered for health care under commercial insurance are included in these company-funded plans, affording the opportunity for proton therapy to be included in the policy at little extra cost.

At the same time, he says, Provision will continue, as it has for the past several years, to dialogue with insurance companies in an effort to “come to agreement on reasonable coverage terms for proton therapy.”

Thanks to all the patients who contacted our legislators this year to urge passage of the bills. With a consolidated effort by continued patient support your voice will be heard. Please voice your opinion to legislators and your insurance companies in support of proton therapy, a life-changing cancer treatment.

St. Jude’s new center puts Tennessee on the proton therapy map

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With this week’s opening of a brand new proton therapy treatment center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee becomes one of just five states with two proton therapy centers.

There are now 19 proton therapy centers nationwide.

The $90 million St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center has three treatment rooms where children are already receiving proton therapy. St. Jude aims to treat 100 children at the facility by the end of next year.

“Proton therapy is an evolution in delivery of focused radiation therapy that allows us to deliver the highest possible dose to tumors while limiting damage to surrounding tissue,” said Thomas Merchant, chair of St. Jude’s department of radiation oncology. St. Jude is the first children’s hospital to establish a proton therapy center.

For Provision, which also treats pediatric patients with proton therapy at its center in Knoxville, St. Jude’s adoption of the up-and-coming medical technology is an important part of making it more widely known and available to patients who need it, says Scott Warwick, vice president of program development and strategic initiatives for Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

“With St. Jude’s entry into proton therapy, Tennessee has become a center for quality cancer care for children and adults,” Warwick said. “And in a couple of years, when the Scott Hamilton Proton Therapy Center in Franklin, Tenn., proton therapy will be readily available to every resident of Tennessee as well as those in surrounding communities. Our state has become a model for expansion of proton therapy around the world.”

Scott Hamilton, whose growth as a child was hampered by a later-discovered brain tumor, has become an advocate for cancer patients as well as proton therapy. The Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation is developing the new Middle Tennessee Center in partnership with Provision.

“I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for the patients at St. Jude,” Hamilton says. “Onward and upward!”

Tennessee legislator leads charge to change laws for coverage

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Tennessee Senator Doug Overbey first learned about proton therapy several years ago when a church member had to travel out of state to receive the cancer treatment—and then mortgage her house to pay for it.

Today, Tennesseans can receive proton therapy closer to home, thanks to the Provision Center for Proton Therapy in Knoxville. But, unfortunately, some are still faced with paying for it themselves or going without.

For the past two years, Overbey has been fighting this inequity in the Tennessee General Assembly, and he’s not stopping now.

In a television interview with WATE “On Your Side” reporter Halley Holloway, Overbey pledged to continue fighting for insurance coverage that often eludes patients between ages 18 and 65 who are diagnosed with cancer. The interview was posted on the news station’s website along with a story about Tennessee breast cancer patient Lou Lovingood, whose Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance carrier had denied her claim for proton therapy treatment three times. Lovingood received treatment at Provision, where she was the center’s 500th patient.

Proton therapy has been used for treatment of cancer since the 1950s and approved for coverage by Medicare as well as by most insurers for pediatric cases since the early 1990s, when the modality became available at mainstream healthcare facilities. Overbey has supported two bills in the state legislature that would pave the way for private insurance to cover proton therapy for everyone—measures strongly opposed by insurance companies, particularly Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. (more…)