SOURCE: IU Health Proton Therapy

IU Health Proton Therapy

April 24, 2012 12:26 ET

Kevin McMullen, MD, Helps Pediatric and Young Adults Fight Cancer

IU Proton Therapy Center Adds Radiation Oncologist to Its Staff

BLOOMINGTON, IN--(Marketwire - Apr 24, 2012) - Dr. Kevin McMullen has joined the radiation oncology faculty of the Indiana University Health Proton Therapy Center. With over a decade of radiation oncology experience, the former U.S. Army flight surgeon and Wake Forest University School of Medicine faculty member focuses primarily on treating pediatric, adolescent and young adult patients.

McMullen brings with him diverse experiences within the field of oncology. While he has practiced radiation oncology and radiosurgery for years, his real passion lies in the investigation and prevention of long-term effects of cancer therapy. Having published extensively on radiation therapy, McMullen acknowledges that "injury to normal tissues from radiation treatments and second cancers, including those from radiation exposure of tissue during treatment, are a major cause of mortality for cancer survivors."

McMullen's findings led him to the IU Health Proton Therapy Center where he believes proton therapy can have a major impact on the side effects of cancer therapy. "The opportunity to use and grow the science of proton therapy is exciting," McMullen says of his new role. "The possibility of maintaining or even improving local therapies for cancer, while potentially having a dramatic effect on the quality of life of cancer survivors due to less normal tissue radiation exposure by using protons is a thrilling prospect."

Proton therapy is used to treat children and young adult patient because the precision of the radiation beam used in proton therapy causes less exposure to normal tissues surrounding the tumor. Less damage to healthy tissue in children and adolescents means growth of that tissue is not affected, so there's less chance of long-term deformation, stunted growth or long term organ injury.

With physicians like McMullen moving to proton therapy treatment, the field will only continue to grow. Just as McMullen published articles and studies about his research in radiosurgery, he says he "wouldn't have come to IU without the opportunity to advance the science of proton therapy in addition to treating patients." As access increases and costs decline, Dr. McMullen believes that proton therapy will be able to be utilized in many other disease sites in the body.

McMullen is also the Indiana Lions Endowed Scholar in Cancer Survivorship, created at the generosity of the Indiana Lions to support research and efforts on behalf of cancer survivors. Cancer survivors suffer from late effects both from their cancer and from their therapy. Dr. McMullen notes, "The cancer patient is never the same as they were before they got sick. They have literal scars from treatment; but also bear hidden pain from the psychological and emotional trauma of their ordeal. As part of this position I've been given, my goal is to work towards improving the strategies we use for treatment to cause fewer late effects; and to work for creative supportive care strategies for survivors to address long term effects of their therapy."

IU Proton Therapy Center is one of ten centers in the United States that offers proton radiation therapy. The treatment staff consists of board certified radiation oncology physicians, licensed nurses, licensed radiation therapists - who specialize in pediatric and adult treatment -- and a credentialed medical physics staff. The IU Health Proton Therapy Center pediatric program is affiliated with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, which is ranked among the top 30 children's hospitals in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2010-11 edition of America's Best Children's Hospitals.

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    Amanda B. Burnham
    Manager, Marketing and Development
    IU Health Proton Therapy Center