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Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center plans to invest $10 million for a new cancer treatment program at its Baton Rouge hospital that will allow oncologists to target tumors not typically treatable with standard therapies. 

The Adaptive MRIGuided Radiation Therapy Program, among half a dozen sites of its kind nationwide, is expected to open in 2022.

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center plans to invest $10 million for a new cancer treatment program at its Baton Rouge hospital that will allow oncologists to target tumors not typically treatable with standard therapies. 

The Adaptive MRIGuided Radiation Therapy Program, among half a dozen sites of its kind nationwide, is expected to open in 2022. A key piece of equipment is the Elekta Unity system. The system enables doctors to visualize the tumor during the treatments while applying radiation doses. The goal is to reduce the number of sessions required for cancer treatment because it's a more targeted approach. The treatment can be used on more than 40 different types of cancerous tumors.

"This new technology is going to save lives," said Dr. Kos Kovtun, a radiation oncologist at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “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."

Typically patients getting radiation are positioned the same way during each treatment and the cancer is outlined at the beginning. But with this technology each visit can be tailored since doctors can use the MRI machine to guide the radiation which can enable them to use higher doses to shrink the tumor faster. 

"What I can do is adapt the plan and deliver higher doses to the tumor while maintaining good safety, or the same dose but it's even safer," he said. 

The investment is mostly funded by a community of donors led by the Art Favre family. Favre is the founder of Baton Rouge-based industrial contracting group Performance Contractors. Construction and remodeling work at the Baton Rouge site is expected to begin in early 2022 and wrap up by June. 

Mary Bird Perkins has been working on the plan for the past 18 months. 

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"There will be some substantial remodeling that has to happen," said Jonas Fontenot, chief operating officer of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center about the Essen Lane site. 

It's a different path than previous plans to build a $40 million proton therapy center which Mary Bird Perkins described as a future investment possibility. Proton therapy uses a thin laser beam to destroy cancerous tumors without damaging tissue around the area and can be an alternative to radiation therapy for some cancers.

"Adaptive therapy is a different avenue of development that has some advantages," Fontenot said. 

In theory, the adaptive therapy machine could be used for all patients but some cancers could be most impacted by it, such as certain gastrointestinal, lung, prostate and throat cancers. In general, the treatment is covered by insurance, according to the organization. 

The move is meant to make Mary Bird a hub drawing interest statewide, from physicians, such as specialists in advanced cancer care, and patients. 

Several weeks ago, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center decided to join a nationwide network of Nashville-based OneOncology which included affiliation with Mary Bird Perkins' Baton Rouge, Gonzales, Hammond, Houma, Covington and Natchez, Mississippi locations.


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com or follow her on Twitter @k_mosbrucker