A Sense of Urgency

Mary Bird Perkins now offers the world’s most sophisticated form of radiation treatment. That’s just the beginning of its latest advancements to move its mission forward


Adding lifesaving, state-of-the-art technologies, expanding its reach among rural and underserved communities, and attracting top national talent are just some of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s recent achievements. Together, these advances are expanding the state’s largest cancer care organization’s enduring mission to improve survivorship and lessen the burden of cancer across the region. 

“We feel a real sense of urgency to accomplish as much as we can for the community,” said Mary Bird Perkins President and CEO Jonas Fontenot, who took the helm in January 2023. “We’ve been working to accomplish many of these goals for years, but our team is ambitious. They’ve worked collectively to get us ahead of schedule.”

Operating cancer centers across Louisiana and Mississippi, Mary Bird Perkins offers world-class treatment options in as many communities as possible. Throughout 2023, Mary Bird Perkins continued to expand its footprint in rural locations, while also receiving more than $2.6 million in grant funding to provide care to underserved populations.

Among the cancer center’s top recent achievements is the addition of Adaptive Radiation Therapy (ART), the most sophisticated form of radiation treatment available today, Fontenot said. Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is one of only eleven sites in the country to offer this form of treatment and the only one in Louisiana. The new technology was made possible by the Art Favre family, other community donors and through an investment by the Cancer Center.

“It’s a new frontier,” Fontenot said. “It’s a completely new paradigm for how we deliver radiation therapy, and it has tremendous potential in treating hard-to-detect cancers.”

The technology combines real-time MRI imaging, novel therapy-delivery equipment, and artificial intelligence. It is especially effective in improving outcomes for pancreatic, liver, and some forms of prostate cancer. The technology helps reveal tumors that may be hard to reach or are camouflaged by other tissues, Fontenot said.

ART is also highly precise in its delivery of radiation specifically to the tumor region.

“We think the Adaptive Radiation Therapy program is really going to allow us to maximize what we call the ‘therapeutic ratio,’” Fontenot said. “That is our ability to control the tumor and minimize side effects.”

To improve its rural reach, Mary Bird Perkins continued to expand in 2023 with a new location in St. Landry Parish with Opelousas General Health System. The site serves at least one hundred patients every week.

Last year also saw the completion of renovations to Mary Bird Perkins’ Houma site at Terrebonne General Health System. And, the Cancer Center added new screening events to support the importance of early detection in northeast and central Louisiana and in Natchez, Mississippi.

At Mary Bird Perkins’ location in Gonzales, an innovative treatment option called PLUVICTO was added last year. The combined radiation-chemotherapy technology is administered by IV and seeks out cancer cells to emit targeted radiation. It is especially effective in treating prostate cancer. Fontenot says that the technology will eventually be expanded to other sites.

While Mary Bird Perkins has long been known for its compassionate care and deep local roots, it’s become a hub for important national clinical research, reflecting its reputation as a high-performing cancer center. In fall 2023, the facility expanded its clinical research program with the launch of multiple Phase 1 clinical trials that enable clinicians and researchers to test new therapies.

“It’s a really exciting time for Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center,” Fontenot said. “From these accomplishments, we will build a cadence as we continue to focus on our mission of improving survivorship and lessening the burden of cancer.”