Reaching Important Milestones: Team HUPTI Has Finally Met Marie
After flight delays, airport gate changes and navigating a new city after dark, Team HUPTI finally arrived in Madison, Wisconsin, anxious to meet Marie™ — the cutting-edge piece of technology that would soon revolutionize cancer treatment in Hampton Roads.
The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute (HUPTI) was represented by four staff members: Executive Director, MaryBeth Sullivan; Director of Clinical Operations, Erin Erdos; Director of Marketing, Tiffany Rodgers; and Multimedia Marketing Specialist, Lourdes Hernandez. On August 24 and 25, they traveled to the Midwest to visit the Leo Cancer Care headquarters and saw Marie™ for the first time.
Marie™ is an advanced upright patient positioning system and CT scanner. The system is named after Marie Curie, a celebrated pioneer in radiation research and the field of radiotherapy. More than a hundred years after her groundbreaking contributions, her memory inspires cancer treatment specialists worldwide, including those at Leo Cancer Care and HUPTI.
Including Marie™ in HUPTI’s current treatment methods will only add to our diverse proton therapy delivery lineup, including pencil beam, double scattering and unform scanning. We are expected to be the first in the country to convert a fixed beam proton treatment room to accommodate the Leo Cancer Care’s Marie™ system.
HUPTI decided to include this form of delivering proton therapy simply to provide more options for those looking to receive treatment. Patients experiencing Marie can sit in a reproducible position for precise repeated irradiation of target tumors throughout their treatment regimen. The benefits of including the system would be significant. Seated treatments will be easier, specifically for those unable to lie flat—research has found that patients with head and neck cancers often struggle with thick oral secretions, making it difficult to lie down during treatments.
A vertical CT scanner will be installed at the center, which was intentionally designed for imaging patients in an upright position. During our meet-and-greet with Marie™, we learned that the system is made up of two main pieces: an upright patient positioning system and a CT scanner. The piece the patient sits in, which received the nickname “Eve” among the Leo Cancer Care team, is fabricated in the UK. Along with the elevatable scanner, made in the US, they both come together and result in Marie™.
We also learned that the system has received two awards for its design, including the prestigious iF Design Award 2021 for Product Design in the Medicine and Health Category.
The Marie™ solution has a big impact, but a small footprint, said Shane Ikner, Training Manager US. As he demonstrated the capabilities to Sullivan and Erdos, the HUPTI leaders had an opportunity to fully understand the system. They had the unique opportunity to sit and stand within the system, experiencing firsthand what their future patients would undergo.
The discussion always circled back to patient comfort and experience—a topic close to Mary Beth and Erin’s hearts, given their backgrounds as radiation therapists. They posed insightful questions and suggested potential adjustments to optimize treatment for patients, taking into account individual differences in height, gender and physical limitations.
Mary Beth and Erin made the most of their encounter with a semi-functional Marie system, as a fully operational system for delivering proton therapy was still in development. They took turns sitting in the system, held its hand pendant to move the CT scanner up and down, considered the types of treatment HUPTI can offer, and felt the speed at which Eve rotates—a smooth and slow movement. If one were to sit in the system and close their eyes, they wouldn’t be able to feel when the rotating starts or stops.
During the visit, HUPTI directors discussed the process of moving forward with Leo Cancer Care’s leadership. They continued to fine-tune the logistics of what was needed to introduce Marie to Hampton Roads. Possible timelines were reviewed, and detailed discussions regarding necessary adjustments and considerations for what needs to happen prior to breaking ground to get the system settled.
One of HUPTI’s goals is to develop and test treatment methods that will help our current and future patients worldwide. We announced our collaboration in March of 2023 and the excitement we felt then was still felt during this trip. Almost six months ago, prior to meeting Marie, we made the announcement that HUPTI would be the first on the East Coast to deliver seated treatments to patients, and being able to touch, see, sit and spin in the system completely brought that statement closer to reality. The center is proud to be a leading player in this line of cancer treatment advancements and is excited to discover what the partnership with Leo Cancer Care will accomplish.
It became clear as we traveled back to Virginia that our trip to the Midwest marked an important chapter in HUPTI’s journey to acquiring Marie. Each milestone brings us one step closer to revolutionizing cancer treatment in the Mid-Atlantic. We’re excited, determined and poised to make an impact on future patients as we continue to fight cancer and save lives.
As #HUPTIGoesUp and the process of welcoming Marie™ continues to unfold, I will be providing similar updates to keep YOU informed.
Stay tuned for more! Thank you for reading.