An economical way to assess the market for state-of-the-art radiation therapy in underserved areas.

Derek Prentice

When making the strategic decision to build a cancer treatment center, one of the first considerations is whether you’ll be able to maintain the volume of patients needed to have a viable business. So the thought of developing a radiation therapy center in a rural market like Muskogee, Okla, probably doesn’t make much business sense, at least on the surface. But that’s exactly what we did with the assistance of TomoMobile, an innovative relocatable radiation therapy system that enabled us to quickly begin treating patients in order to determine if the market was strong enough to support a permanent center.

The TomoMobile solution consists of a standard TomoTherapy? radiation therapy system housed in a custom-designed movable coach that replicates the environment of a conventional permanent treatment vault.

In 2009, we began to evaluate development of a cancer center in Muskogee. Even though there was already a cancer center in the town, it only offered patients radiation treatments on an older model linac system. The limited treatment options there often forced patients to drive more than 50 miles one way to Tulsa or more than 140 miles to Oklahoma City—the two closest cities that offered treatment alternatives. Given the distance that patients had to travel, we thought there could be a robust market for state-of-the-art radiation therapy services in Muskogee. Despite that, we were still concerned that it may be too big of a gamble to spend millions of dollars and more than a year building a permanent radiation treatment facility before we saw a single patient.

Around this same time, we discovered the TomoMobile solution, which is comprised of a standard TomoTherapy® radiation therapy system housed in a custom-designed movable coach that replicates the environment of a conventional permanent treatment vault. The TomoTherapy system is a fully integrated, ring gantry-based system, which combines a CT scanner and linear accelerator for delivery of image-guided, intensity-modulated adaptive radiation therapy (IG-IMRT)—the gold standard in radiation treatment.

With the TomoMobile solution, we saw that we could minimize the risk associated with building a permanent center in a smaller, more rural market. Yet, the TomoMobile solution would enable us to quickly begin offering the same level of technology locally that patients would have had to drive hours away from home to receive in bigger cities, like Tulsa or Oklahoma City.

With the help of TomoTherapy?s TomoMobile system, Artesian Cancer Center was able to launch a relocatable radiation therapy service that benefits patients in rural, underserved areas.

The TomoMobile solution was a perfect fit. Within a matter of weeks, we were able to bring state-of-the-art radiation therapy services to Muskogee and begin serving patients. We treat an average of 27 patients a day in the TomoMobile unit, focusing on cases such as breast, prostate, and head and neck cancers for which IG-IMRT is ideally suited.

Now, about 18 months after we launched services with the TomoMobile solution, we’re developing a permanent cancer center in Muskogee and have ordered a new TomoTherapy system to be installed there. Once that facility is operational, we plan to move the TomoMobile unit to another underserved market where we have identified the need for advanced radiation therapy services.

TomoMobile has helped us prove that you do not have to build a permanent facility to quickly bring the benefits of state-of-the-art cancer care to rural America. With the TomoMobile solution, we can shave several months off the time it takes to begin treating patients with advanced radiation therapy technology while building a viable and lasting business in markets that other health care providers may overlook.

Derek Prentice is president and CEO of DMP Oncology, and developer of Artesian Cancer Center of Muskogee, Okla.