Bradley named head of proton beam therapy center

Jeffrey D. Bradley, M.D., associate professor of radiation oncology, has been named the first director of the Kling Center for Proton Therapy, a facility for treating cancer patients with a new, highly precise form of radiation therapy. The center is scheduled to open in summer 2009 at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Bradley is a radiation oncologist specializing in lung and esophageal cancer. He is an international expert in the application of stereotactic body radiation therapy, which delivers a tightly focused high radiation dose to a small area. Bradley is also known internationally for breakthroughs in using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning to enhance radiation therapy treatment planning.

“Dr. Bradley’s experience and leadership in highly conformal radiation therapies such as 3D conformal and stereotactic body radiation therapy make him uniquely qualified to oversee the research, development and operations of the Kling Center for Proton Therapy,” says Jeff M. Michalski, M.D., interim head of the Department of Radiation Oncology and professor of radiation oncology.

The treatment center is named for S. Lee Kling, a director of National Beverage Corp. since 1993. He has served as chairman of the board of the Kling Co., a merchant banking company, since 2002, and is on the board of directors at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Kling led a fund-raising effort that obtained $2.3 million to fund research and use of the proton facility. He became interested in proton beam radiation when the therapy was used to eradicate a tumor in his eye.

The Kling Center will be the first single-vault proton therapy center in the country, and the equipment will be assembled and given its first trial at the School of Medicine. The United States has five larger-scale proton therapy centers, but this new streamlined version, developed by Still Rivers Systems, costs about one-fifth the $100 million or greater price tag of the older type of proton therapy center and can fit in a much smaller area. Still River Systems is based in Littleton, Mass.

The facility will be located across the street from the Center for Advanced Medicine at the southeast corner of Euclid and Forest Park avenues. A ground-level “storefront” on Euclid will provide patients entrance to the facility.

The proton beam device emits positively charged atomic particles. As the protons travel through tissues, they release most of their energy in a concentrated burst near the end of their range, which allows the power of the proton beam to be focused extremely precisely and spares surrounding structures.

Proton beam therapy is especially suitable for childhood cancers and cancers that occur in close proximity to critical tissues such as the brain, eye or the spinal cord. In addition, some types of bone and cartilage cancers don’t respond well to X-ray beam radiation but respond to proton beam radiation.

“It’s very exciting for the whole region to be able to offer proton beam radiation therapy,” Bradley says. “It gives us another option for treating cancers so that we can ensure we have the best solution for each patient. Children are an ideal group to use the proton therapy because X-ray beam radiation therapy can potentially affect their growth or lead to secondary cancers later in life.”

In many cases, X-ray beam radiation therapy applied through newer techniques such as intensity modulation, in which radiation dose is designed to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor, can give as good or better results than proton beam radiation therapy. But the proton therapy center will be valuable for treating those patients who can specifically benefit from it.

“Getting the proton beam radiation center here has been a team effort,” Bradley says. “Jeff Michalski has had a key role in overseeing this project. And we couldn’t have done this without Andrew Ziskind, president of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, who made a commitment on behalf of the hospital to help find funding and get support for the center. Dean Larry Shapiro and Timothy Eberlein have also played vital roles in making this happen.” Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., is executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. Timothy J. Eberlein, M.D., is Bixby Professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor and director of the Siteman Cancer Center.

Bradley has been a faculty member at the School of Medicine since August 1998. He earned his medical degree from the University of Arkansas in 1993. He went to Northwestern University for an internship and to the University of Chicago for a residency in radiation oncology.

Bradley received an ASTRO Basic Science Research Fellowship Award in 1997, a Radiation Oncology Teacher of the Year award in 1999 and a European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology Young Investigator Travel Award in 2001. He has published numerous research articles on methods of radiation treatment for cancer.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Siteman Cancer Center is the only federally designated Comprehensive Cancer Center within a 240-mile radius of St. Louis. Siteman Cancer Center is composed of the combined cancer research and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Siteman has satellite locations in West County and St. Peters, in addition to its full-service facility at Washington University Medical Center on South Kingshighway.