Timmie O’Pry’s cancer journey began a few years ago when he noticed troubling symptoms while working – difficulty breathing and a persistent cough. His job highly relied on manual labor, and Timmie sought help from his primary care physician when his symptoms started getting in the way. He was soon diagnosed with both lung and prostate cancer.
Timmie turned to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, drawn by its reputation for compassionate and comprehensive patient care. After surviving lung cancer with the help of Dr. Konstantin “Kos” Kovtun, M.D., radiation oncologist and medical director of adaptive radiation therapy at Mary Bird Perkins, they turned their focus to his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Timmie recalls how Dr. Kovtun immediately made him feel comfortable and hopeful. “He was down-to-earth and explained everything to me. When he came into the room, there were no distractions. His focus was on me 100 percent of the time. Dr. Kovtun was excellent. He’s just the best doctor I’ve ever seen.”
Fortunately, the Cancer Center was powering up an innovative new technology that would be the key his treatment plan needed: Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy, utilizing the unique Elekta Unity treatment system.
In 2023, Mary Bird Perkins became the first and only organization in Louisiana to offer this precision medicine technology. This was thanks to generous funding from the Art Favre family, community donors and an investment from the Cancer Center. The revolutionary equipment allows oncologists to visualize tumors and adjust radiation dosage in real time, during treatment, supporting inevitable changes within a patient’s body.
“Internally, people are different day to day,” says Dr. Kovtun. “Rather than relying on a plan made at the beginning of treatment, with adaptive radiation we can look at a patient’s anatomy that day and immediately change the target of radiation based on the tumor size and position, while helping avoid healthy organs.”
As Dr. Kovtun describes, adaptive radiation therapy ultimately allows oncologists to increase “therapeutic ratio” – increasing efficiency of treatment while decreasing the amount of harm to healthy body tissue.
Timmie was the Cancer Center’s first patient to be treated using this state-of-the-art technology with its ability to adapt the therapy to his specific needs. His treatment time was also trimmed from over five weeks for standard radiation therapy at the Cancer Center to just five days with adaptive radiation.
While adaptive radiation therapy reduces the number of treatments, each session takes a little longer, around 45 minutes according to Dr. Kovtun. This accounts for the in-session tumor mapping to design the day-to-day nuanced radiation targeting that is otherwise planned only once, ahead of the entire course of treatment.
Timmie’s care team always prioritized his comfort, playing his favorite music and talking him through each therapy session. “I’ve never been treated that good anywhere else in my life. I got everything I needed,” he says. “The whole team treated me like family.”
Timmie’s successful treatment highlights the potential of adaptive radiation therapy for various tumor types. Dr. Kovtun is optimistic about the future of cancer care innovations and furthering the Cancer Center’s mission to improve survivorship and lessen the burden of cancer.
“We’re able to deliver leading-edge care, and make it convenient and safe for patients,” he says. “We can also help a larger community of people, as the treatment timeframe is much shorter. Those who may not be able to make the trip for several weeks, now only have to come for one week. We’re very fortunate to have the clinical expertise and technology to make this happen.”
Timmie is recovering and looking forward to getting back to work with his rebounding energy. And his advice to others facing cancer: “Go to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. Get screened. If they can get a head start, they will knock it out.”
Adaptive MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy is particularly beneficial for soft tissue tumors and is available to patients battling tumors in areas such as the prostate, head and neck, lung, abdomen, liver, rectum, and pancreas.
For more information on screenings and groundbreaking treatment options, contact Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center at 1-888-501-4763 or visit www.marybird.org/get-screened.