Local health care and community leaders gathered Oct. 3 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for San Diego County’s newest cancer care facility, as the $43.9 million Scripps Radiation Therapy Center officially opened its doors to offer a glimpse into some of the most advanced technologies in the world for treating cancer.
Located on the Torrey Pines Mesa, the Scripps Radiation Therapy Center serves Scripps patients from across the region who require radiation therapies and will offer patients access to clinical trials. The American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology (ASTRO) estimates that nearly two-thirds of all cancer patients will receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment.
“The Scripps Radiation Therapy Center will help improve the quality of patient care by providing the very latest technology and a full offering of treatment options,” said Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of Scripps Health.
Covering 45,420 square feet, the two-story Scripps Radiation Therapy Center is located at 10670 John Jay Hopkins Drive. The center will have the capacity to treat approximately 1,200 patients annually. It is expected to draw patients primarily from Scripps’ 23 outpatient centers and five hospital campuses.
The new center consolidates Scripps’ two existing radiation oncology centers at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Scripps Green Hospital. The radiation oncology program at Scripps La Jolla was fully relocated to the new center in late September, while the program at Scripps Green is expected to be fully relocated to the new center by late November. Most patients will receive their care on an outpatient basis.
“Combining our two outstanding programs under one roof with the best available technology allows us to make the best use of our staff resources and equipment,” Van Gorder said. “It will also help with standardizing our care protocols and IT systems, in keeping with health care reform efforts.”
The Scripps Radiation Therapy Center is equipped with highly sophisticated technology that is powerful, fast and flexible, allowing physicians to treat patients with greater precision and in less time than traditional approaches. The facility includes three new linear accelerators, each manufactured by Varian Medical Systems of Palo Alto, Calif.
One of the accelerators, the TrueBeam STx, is particularly versatile, with the ability to choreograph 3-D tumor imaging, beam delivery and motion management. This allows for the external beam radiation therapy to be delivered to the patient with extraordinary speed and accuracy. This holds true even if the tumor is on the lung and moving as the patient breathes.
The technology’s precision is measured in increments of less than a millimeter, which helps protect nearby healthy tissue and critical organs. And it can shorten treatment time significantly, cutting a typical 30-minute treatment down to five minutes or less for some tumor sites. It can also generate 3-D tumor images using a 25 percent lower X-ray dose than is necessary with earlier generations of technology. These advances translate to improved comfort and accuracy for patients, while minimizing side effects from treatment. This will be just the third TrueBeam STx in use in all of Southern California.
“Our technology will help provide greater patient comfort by significantly shortening treatment times, and will improve precision by leaving less time for tumor and patient movement during treatment,” said Dr. Ray Lin, the center’s medical director. “We’re excited to open what we believe is the premier radiation therapy center in the region.”
Other technology and patient amenities at the new center include a 16-slice CT simulator with 4-D imaging capability, which will enable radiation oncologists to more accurately treat tumors that move, while minimizing the impact on surrounding critical organs. Additionally, the center offers a rooftop healing garden, patient education resource library, clinical research space, patient locker and gowning areas and physician offices. The center is designed with sufficient space to add two more linear accelerators.
Dr. Ken Shimizu and Dr. Donald Fuller are associate medical directors of the Scripps Radiation Therapy Center. The new facility has a staff of 30 professionals, including radiation therapists, physicists, nurses, dosimetrists and patient services representatives.
FreemanWhite, Inc., serving as architect of record, executed the design of the center in a modernist style, using clean lines and crisp angles to evoke the high-level healing technology inside. The design provides a framework for the delivery of a very personal and attentive level of patient care. The distinctive exterior combines the modern feel of reflective glass with the warm textures of modular stone and cast concrete. A rooftop healing garden offers ocean breezes, a water feature and views to the eastern rolling hills. Inside, the large expanses of glass allow natural light to radiate throughout the interior. Warm-colored wood furniture, rich fabrics and nature-inspired artwork combine to create a comfortable, emotionally supportive environment.
The public is invited to tour the facility and learn about the treatment technology when Scripps hosts a community open house at the new center on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Health screenings, refreshments, presentations by physicians, music and children’s activities will also be available.
DPR Construction served as general contractor for the new facility. Costs to build and equip the radiation therapy center were funded through a combination of income from operations, debt financing and philanthropy.
The new center is just the latest development in Scripps’ expanding capabilities in cancer care. The $220 million Scripps Proton Therapy Center will be San Diego County’s first facility to offer advanced proton therapy to cancer patients – and just the second such facility west of the Rockies – when it opens in summer 2013.
In 2011 Scripps Green Hospital earned accreditation in radiation oncology from the American College of Radiology and ASTRO. Scripps Green is the only civilian hospital in San Diego to earn this distinction and the accreditation will apply to the new facility. Approximately 10 percent of the nation’s radiation treatment sites have received this accreditation.
Scripps has long been a leader in providing cancer care in San Diego. It opened the county’s first blood and marrow transplantation program in 1980 and during the past 30 years, the program’s patient survival rate has doubled. Scripps offers the most comprehensive robotic surgery program in San Diego. And Scripps is the only cancer care provider in San Diego to earn network accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.
Scripps provides comprehensive care at its five hospital campuses and its various outpatient facilities. With more than 300 affiliated physicians, Scripps Cancer Care seeks to provide the best possible treatment and cutting-edge research trials for patients by coordinating medical expertise in the areas of clinical cancer care, community outreach and clinical, translational and basic research.
Scripps Polster Breast Care Center at Scripps La Jolla and the Breast Care Center at Scripps Green Hospital have earned accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ National Accreditation Program for Breast Cancer Centers.