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Gov. Scott Announces Cancer Funding Proposal At UF Proton Therapy Institute

Catherine Byerly
Jacksonville Business Journal

Governor Rick Scott was in Jacksonville on Tuesday touting his proposal to allocate $80 million for cancer treatment and research.Scott made the announcement at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute.

About 150 patients a day receive treatment at the institute, which has served patients from around the world. Nearly 5,000 patients have been treated since the institute opened in 2006.

Proton therapy allows doctors to focus on the cancer cells while leaving nearby surrounding tissue unaffected. Normal radiation treatment travels through the body and exits the other side. Proton therapy also has far fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatments.        

Scott said he wants Florida to be the top state for cancer treatment and research.

"Thanks to modern medicine many individuals who have been diagnosed with common types of cancer can be treated and live longer lives," he said.

"It's the more complex forms of cancer however that create a bigger challenge for families and doctors. Treatment of these complex cancers requires more research and development."  

That was good news for the institute's medical director Nancy Mendenhall. She said the legislation would move UF to the forefront nationally for cancer research and treatment.

"Everyday we see and treat patients who are suffering from many different types of cancer and radiation therapy, both conventional radiation, as well as the innovative methods like proton therapy, is one of the most powerful weapons we have against cancer," she said. "Our radiation treatments today are much more effective than those of 20 years ago, and much less toxic."          

Twenty-year-old University of Florida student Jacob Nichols drives from Gainesville to Jacksonville each weekday for his cancer treatment. He suffers from the rare spinal cancer chordoma.  

Nichols said his treatment at Proton Therapy Institute has been great and everyone treats him well.

He said one problem is being both a patient and a full-time college student at the time, since his treatment does have the side effect of radiation fatigue.

"When I hit that wall is kind of 'all right we've got to get through this, we've got to get a little bit done,'" he said. "My grades aren't where I want them to be right now, but they're still decent compared to, under the circumstances."

"So mentally I tough through it, physically I wish I was in better shape, I wish I has more time to go work out but you know I'm getting through it, and getting it done, I'm doing what I need to," Nichols said.         
The $80 million proposal includes $60 million for existing Florida Cancer Centers to assist in achieving National Cancer Institute designation and another $20 million for peer-reviewed research grants.

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax.