February 11, 2011

In Cancer Fight, the Future is Now

From left, Dr. Frederick Briccetti, Dr. Brian Knab, Elliot Hospital CEO and President Douglas Dean,
State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, and Selma Naccach Hoff, chairman of 

the Mary and John Elliot Foundation Board of Trustees, ceremoniously launch the 
new Elliot Regional Cancer Center in Londonderry during a ribbon-cutting Thursday night. 
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Deep in the belly of the new Elliot Regional Cancer Center is a room where the luminescent ceiling lighting morphs from color to color to color. Inside that room is a piece of equipment that shoots laser beams on command. It is the centerpiece of high-tech treatment deliveryfor this very 21st-century concept in comprehensive cancer care.
The space-age machine, a linear accelerator, looks like it should be beaming someone up or perhaps zapping bad guys — which, in a way, it sort of does, said Dr. Brian Knab, a radiation oncologist with New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology.
 “The linear accelerator delivers an X-ray beam to target and treat a tumor with more accuracy than ever before,” explained Knab, during last night’s official launch of the 100,000-square-foot sprawling treatment center, which is actually three buildings in one. 

Radiation therapist Catherine Coulombe stands next
to the linear accelerator, a new technology used
 for external radiation therapy at the new
Elliot Regional Cancer Center in Londonderry.
“More targeted therapy means fewer side effects,” said Knab. Even as recently as 20 years ago, cancer patients were treated with an open field of radiation, which meant all tissue in the path of the X-ray beam was fully radiated. 
Using the combined advanced technology of the linear accelerator, a CAT scanner and robotic patient table that shifts on precise angles by degrees, to help target the radiation directly onto the cancer, there is less tissue damage and better outcomes for patients, Knab said. 
The new center, which brings together medical experts from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/ New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology and Elliot Hospital, doesn’t officially open for business until Feb. 17. 
But last night the public was invited to do a walk-through of the open-concept treatment center, which features a patient resource center for access to a library of information via two computer stations as well as printed material; a coffee bar and filtered water fountains; an autonomous check-in center, where patients can circumvent the reception desk and check in with a swipe of their patient card; a puzzle nook/waiting area; and a video-conferencing room where patients and doctors can go for consultations that include doctors linked in remotely. 
Social worker Christine Howard said the open design, which includes an exam room “large enough to examine Shamu,” and oversized windows, which allow for abundant natural lighting, are meant to provide an added level of comfort for patients facing a difficult road to recovery. 
“We also have three consultation rooms where we can deliver additional therapies, including massage and reiki, for no additional cost,” Howard said. 
Dr. Frederick Briccetti, Medical Director for Dana Farber/ New Hampshire Hematology-Oncology, said given the graying population, it’s inevitable that more and more people will face cancer diagnoses. 
“Cancer is a disease of old age, for the most part. And so as we see the baby boomers age, there will be more and more cancer, just by virtue of there being more old people,” Briccetti said. “But we’re doing better, and we’re finding ways to deliver excellent treatment, ways to make treatment less toxic for patients.” 
Elliot Hospital CEO and President Douglas Dean said when he first spotted the location on a hill nestled between routes 102 and 128 six years ago, it was just farmland with a barn and some horses. 
“I wasn’t sure what it would be good for, but I knew it seemed like the perfect location for something,” Dean said. “Six years — and three phases — later, it’s turned out to be one of the best things we’ve ever done.” 
What Elliot has done, Dean said, is provide patients an alternative to traveling 60 miles south for treatment, with top physicians, cutting edge technology and comprehensive treatment options, all under one roof. 
“This is one of the best things to happen in our state — people travel across the world to get the level of care now available in Londonderry,” Dean said. ‘We’re weaving together something very special for people in the scariest and darkest days of their lives, as they battle against cancer.” 

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