First eye cancer patient at Proton Therapy Institute completes treatment

The fixed beam room at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute is up and running, with radiation oncologist Robert Malyapa, M.D., Ph.D., treating the facility’s first eye cancer patient this week.

Susan Porter, a Jacksonville native, was treated for a choroidal melanoma, a type of cancer that arises from one of the layers of the eye. It is a rare, but it is the most common cancer treated with proton therapy. More than 30,000 patients worldwide have received protons for choroidal melanoma.

“I thank God that this hospital is here and the machine is here and that I had that option,” Porter said before her fourth and final treatment. “Otherwise I would have lost my eye.”

The other treatments for choroidal melanoma are removal of the eye or the surgical implant of a radioactive patch. With protons, the patient receives four targeted radiation doses that avoid critical structures around and within the eye. Eye cancer patients treated with protons have a 90 percent to 95 percent chance of local control of the cancer and an eye retention rate of approximately 85 percent.

There are less complications related to treatment with protons,” said Malyapa. “Our number one goal is to cure the patient, second is to retain the eye and third is to retain vision.”

Malyapa is an assistant professor in the department of radiation ancology and an internationally known specialist in proton therapy for cancers of the head and neck, central nervous system and paranasal sinuses. Since 2005, he has served as one of the founding physicians at the UF Proton Therapy Institute.

To start, the types of eye cancer that will be treated in the fixed beam room, also known as eyeline, at the Proton Therapy Institute include intraocular melanoma, choroidal metastasis and choroidal hemangiomas.