February 3, 2016
The establishment of the Maryland Proton Alliance (MPA) was announced on February 3, 2016. MPA is a new organizational framework for proton therapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) that may serve as a national model for patient-centered cancer care. The Alliance will be led by Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and head of the department’s Division of Translational Radiation Sciences. Dr. Vujaskovic succeeds Minesh Mehta, MBChB, who served as Medical Director of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC) during its development from 2012 to 2015.
MPA is the result of long-term collaborative planning designed to make innovative research activities integral to the infrastructure of the new $200 million, 110,000-square-foot Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). As part of its mission, the MPA brings together the multi-platform global research and education programs of the UM SOM with the clinical services of the MPTC—combining the resources of UM SOM and industry partner Advanced Particle Therapy, LLC, with support from federal, industry, regional and global stakeholders.
“The creation of the alliance as we prepare to see our first patients emphasizes our commitment to making MPTC a national and international leader in expanding and sharing knowledge about the best treatment approaches tailored to the precise needs of each patient,” said Dr. Regine, who is the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Endowed Chair in the Department of Radiation Oncology. “Both APT and UM SOM share the view that investments in research can have direct results in enhancing our success in cancer treatment. We look forward to extending this relationship to include many of our current and future federal, industry, and academic partners who have expressed interest in working with us.”
“The knowledge and technology that the APT/ UM SOM partnership has brought to Maryland will have real and immediate benefits for cancer patients in the region,” said Jeff Bordok, APT CEO. “APT remains committed to seeing that these benefits are extended into the future through an active and productive research program.”
“This is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Dr. Vujaskovic. “As the only proton treatment center in the Baltimore–Washington region, we are in a unique position to partner with a wide range of public and private researchers, many of whom are only beginning to assess the potential value of this technology and are eager to work with a premiere academic institution in these efforts.” Over his career, Dr. Vujaskovic has developed diverse extramural partnerships and received funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), NASA, and others. He is an internationally recognized investigator in radiation effects on normal and tumor tissue. He has clinical expertise in prostate and bladder cancer treatment and is currently a leader in the innovative use of thermal therapy (hyperthermia) for various malignancies. Under his direction, the Division of Translational Research Sciences has become a leader in collaborative studies investigating medical countermeasures to radiation.
The MPA will build on an existing strong track record of research relationships with major academic centers, industry and the federal government to create new programs exploring the benefits of protons in treating cancer. As a result, Dr. Vujaskovic anticipates that this unique alliance will increase research funding, as well as create new research positions and educational opportunities for graduate students and other trainees.
“The Maryland Proton Alliance will serve as a focal point for first-in-the-region and first-in-the-nation investigations and research relationships,” said Dean Reece, who is also Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “We are particularly pleased that Dr. Vujaskovic has accepted this challenge. His distinguished record in both research and clinical practice, and his leadership in radiation oncology here at UM SOM and internationally/nationally, make him ideally suited to lead this new initiative.”