Mary Bird Perkins invests $10 million to revolutionize cancer treatment across centers in Baton Rouge, across South

Published 8:08 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2021

BATON ROUGE, La. — As Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center celebrates its 50th anniversary, the organization is announcing a new, transformational development solidifying Baton Rouge’s position as a regional high-tech hub for cancer treatment and care. In 2022, Mary Bird Perkins will be one of only a few sites in the United States and the only one in Louisiana to offer a breakthrough Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy Program. The Cancer Center is acquiring an Elekta Unity system, a state-of-the-art MR-linac, the cornerstone of the Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy Program. This will provide oncologists the ability to target tumors previously not treatable with radiation therapy. Currently, there are only six cancer centers in the country offering this technology and level of treatment.

With the image clarity this technology provides through its extremely powerful magnet, radiation oncologists at the Cancer Center will be able to visualize a tumor during treatment and apply radiation dosage in real time – taking personalized cancer care to the next level. In some cases, this therapy will result in reduced side effects for patients and fewer treatment sessions. It will be available to patients battling at least forty different tumor types in areas such as the prostate, head and neck, lung, abdomen, liver, rectum and pancreas. The technology will also allow for more focused stereotactic body radiation therapy for metastatic cancers, enhancing quality of life and prolonging life expectancy.

Learn more about how this technology will transform cancer care across the region.

“This is an absolute game-changer for Mary Bird Perkins, our patients and the state of Louisiana,” said Kos Kovtun, M.D. radiation oncologist, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “First and foremost, this new technology is going to save lives. Our patients are going to have access to one of the world’s most advanced technologies when it comes to cancer treatment. Through our innovative Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy Program, we’ll have the ability to attract and recruit some of the most experienced and gifted oncologists from across the country to join our renowned group of medical and radiation specialists.”

The $10 million-plus Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy Program is a culmination of an investment from the Cancer Center, community donors and the Art Favre family. The funding from Mary Bird Perkins is dedicated to the capital investment needed to enhance the facilities and clinical resources. A transformational gift from the Favre family, as well as community philanthropy, will secure the technology and expand the Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy programmatic and research resources needed today and in the future. Ultimately, this program will strengthen Mary Bird Perkins’ reputation as the most advanced cancer treatment center in the Gulf South and will propel the organization into the ranks of leading facilities across the nation.

Jonas Fontenot, Ph.D., chief operating officer and chief of medical physics, explained that Mary Bird Perkins is one of a few facilities able to initiate an Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy Program due to the Cancer Center’s legacy of expertise in radiation oncology, renowned physicians and its nationally recognized medical physics program, a partnership with Louisiana State University.

“One of the reasons my colleagues and I are here today is because Mary Bird Perkins provides a platform to realize our potential and advance cancer care,” said Fontenot. “Adaptive MRI-Guide Radiation Therapy is the latest example of Mary Bird Perkins’ ongoing growth and development.”

In August, the Cancer Center announced an innovative new partnership with OneOncology, the national platform for independent oncology practices. The partnership will extend Mary Bird Perkins’ access to a broad network of physicians across the country, information technology assets and national buying power.

LSU College of Science Dean Cynthia Peterson, who is also the LSU president’s special advisor on science and has served as a member of the Mary Bird Perkins Board of Directors for six years, said, “We continue to be fortunate and have earned amazing support from philanthropists to advance the Cancer Center’s mission, including the Dr. Charles M. Smith Medical and Health Physics Program, a joint Mary Bird Perkins and LSU initiative. With the potential that comes from a partner such as OneOncology, tremendous growth in medical physics and other clinical programs, Mary Bird Perkins is ensuring its longevity for today and in the future.”

Mary Bird Perkins has grown tremendously over the past decade. The Cancer Center has added a host of new therapies and treatment technologies. The organization has also expanded its footprint throughout the Greater Baton Rouge Region, Bayou Region, the Northshore, Delta Region and Southwest Mississippi.

“As the Cancer Center celebrates its 50th year of serving patients across our region, I have witnessed Mary Bird Perkins’ strength and resolve in an ever-changing healthcare industry to remain focused and do more in the fight against cancer,” said Favre, immediate past board chair, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “The future shines very bright for Mary Bird Perkins, as the team’s focus is always centered on serving patients’ needs. The decades of success can be attributed to the quality of their entire team, the leading-edge expertise of their oncologists and the unbridled passion everyone in the organization has for serving the community. I am confident Mary Bird Perkins’ founders would be extremely proud of the Cancer Center’s position today. It is what inspired my family to invest in this innovative program.”

Facility remodeling and construction required to house the Elekta Unity system will begin in the first quarter of 2022, with the technology being installed as early as June. By late summer, the Cancer Center expects to begin treating patients. This therapy will be made available to Mary Bird Perkins patients across every market in which it operates.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a patient’s radiation treatment,” said Kovtun. “With Adaptive Radiation Therapy, we can make adjustments as the patient is receiving treatment, enhancing its effectiveness and customizing their care. It’ll give us tremendous power to control and eradicate cancer and decrease side effects. We will be working as quickly as possible to bring this technology to Gulf South patients.”

To learn more about the Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy Program and stay updated on Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s latest developments, visit the organization’s website at www.marybird.org.