First-of-its-kind cancer treatment being used in SWFL

The Varian Ethos machine allows oncologists to adjust radiation treatments immediately. (Credit: WINK News)

Just in time for World Cancer Day, a group of Southwest Florida doctors announced a new machine to treat patients that they say is life-changing.

For most of his life, Mike Harms sailed through without any major medical hurdles.

“I’m 80 years old, and I have never been to the hospital and much less a doctor. I twisted my knee playing soccer one time but I’ve never been sick.”

But then he got the call.

“She said Mike, you have got a problem.”

He had pancreatic cancer, and his story is just one of thousands.

Every year, 115,000 cancer cases are diagnosed and reported in Florida, giving the state the second-highest cancer burden in the U.S.

Fortunately, a cancer diagnosis isn’t a death sentence.

Nationally, cancer deaths are going down. The National Cancer Institute finds cancer death rates have gone down nearly 2% in men and nearly 1.5% in women and children.

Dr. Chaundre Cross, a radiation oncologist at GenesisCare, says the achievement is due to better screening procedures and better treatments.

Improvements in treatment through improvements in technology. The Varian Ethos machine allows oncologists to adjust radiation treatments immediately.

“It can develop a treatment plan each and every day for that patient based on that anatomy that it sees that day. So that means less normal tissue getting radiation therapy, which means lesser toxicity and the patients tolerate the treatment much better.”

Cross says the Varian Ethos machine made a difference for Harms. “He had a cancer that I would not be able to treat on other machines; I had to use this machine in order to treat him.”

“The biggest thing that I’m happy about is I’m not worried anymore,” Harms said.

The Varian Ethos machine in Naples is the first of its kind in Florida and only the 10th in the world.

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