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Author Dean Koontz and his Wife Book $9M Donation to Hoag to Transform Radiation Oncology Care

Hoag grateful patient and author Dean Koontz and his wife, Gerda, longtime donors, have graciously committed $9 million to transform cancer care in Orange County. In recognition, Hoag is naming the Dean & Gerda Koontz Radiation Oncology Center in their honor.

Through the couple’s generosity, Hoag will be the only hospital in Orange County, and one of only two in California, to introduce the ViewRay MRIdian©, the world’s first MRI-guided radiation therapy system. The MRIdian uses next generation technology to combine a diagnostic quality MRI scanner with a radiation linear accelerator. This allows for streaming real-time imaging of the radiation target and surrounding critical structures while a patient is being treated, a capability which has not been available to doctors previously.

This tremendous support of Hoag Family Cancer Institute will provide cancer patients with groundbreaking technology that will improve outcomes, allow doctors to target difficult-to-treat cancers and decrease the side effects associated with radiation cancer treatments.

“This technology ushers in a new era of cancer treatment, helping us to realize the promise of targeted medicine in a way that is safer and more effective for our patients,” said Burton L. Eisenberg, M.D., Grace E. Hoag Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair of Hoag Family Cancer Institute. “The benefit this enhanced system will provide cancer patients in our community cannot be overstated, and we are deeply grateful to the Koontz family for this gift.”

MRI-guided radiation therapy can be used to treat many cancer types, especially tumors which are mobile, or are adjacent to critical structures which are mobile. Pancreatic cancer, for example, is an organ that moves and can be seen much more clearly using MRI-guided imaging.

“We all know that our bodies are constantly in motion. Our lungs move as we breath, our bowels move as we digest, our bladders fill and empty, and any tumor or adjacent organ will shift accordingly,” states Craig Cox, M.D., Medical Director of Hoag Radiation Oncology. “One of the fundamental challenges in radiation oncology is how to hit a moving target. With real-time MRI-guided therapy, we now can treat with exact precision. We can see the target, we can see the critical normal tissue we want to avoid and react appropriately.”

The ViewRay MRIdian cancer treatment system also allows for adaptive planning and gated radiation treatment. These unique capabilities allow radiation oncologists to modify their treatment plan to account for any variation in the location, shape and size of the tumor while the patient is being treated. Doctors will be able to change the shape of the radiation dose within the body, and to control the delivery of the beams depending on how a tumor or critical normal structure tracks.

“Adaptive planning and real-time tracking will immediately make radiation therapy more precise – we will be able to change our radiation plan on the fly, and react to the conditions of the day, or even the fraction of a minute,” says Peter Chen, M.D., Hoag Radiation Oncologist. “This in and of itself is very exciting, but there are also intriguing possibilities for the future. Research is under way to look at how the MRI profile of a tumor changes as a patient’s treatment progresses. This data may allow us to better monitor or predict a patient’s outcome, with the ultimate goal of adapting a radiation plan based on the tumor’s MRI response, leading to a personalized dose plan, with no more and no less radiation than needed.”

“The fact that this technology will result in better outcomes and improved quality of life makes it a game-changer,” Dr. Cox said. “We are excited to be able to offer it as part of our comprehensive cancer care and very grateful to the Koontz family for making it possible.”

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