Sparta man beats cancer with proton therapy

Although not new, the alternative cancer therapy is newly available in NJ


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  • Matt Iacobazzo




In New Jersey, about 14,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. With an escalating PSA (protein specific antigen) rate for the past ten years, 65 year-old Matt Iacobazzo of Sparta was on top of his health and not shocked when a two-centimeter tumor confirming cancer of his prostate was found eight months ago. Iacobazzo’s personal journey of dealing with his illness is one he is eager to share with others.

Instead of immediately choosing the more popular forms of treatment like traditional radiation or surgery, Iacobazzo took his time to explore options.

“When you find out you have cancer, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to do something. But this is slow-growing. I went on-line and did a lot of research. And a friend and I starting discussing proton therapy,” said Iacobazzo.

Proton therapy is a less invasive form of radiation. It is defined as “delivering a high dose of cancer-stopping energy while emitting up to 80 percent less radiation to healthy tissue and minimizing side effects associated with standard radiation.”

ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset opened its doors this past March. It is the first and only proton center in New Jersey and the metropolitan tri-state area. It is a privately held health care company that operates three proton therapy centers with several more opening around the country.

Iacobazzo researched the Somerset center and was encouraged by his findings. “The whole procedure was explained to me. I found it to be non-invasive, and they were almost holistic — I believed in this therapy after checking it out,” he said. He signed on becoming the ninth patient to be treated there.

“Protons are the most advanced and elegant way of delivering radiation treatment,” explained Dr.Brian Chon, medical director of the ProCure Proton therapy center in Somerset. “Protons are different than Xrays — they come into the body and stop sparing 60 percent to 80 percent to healthy tissue — this is where the benefit lies.”

With the use of a cyclotrone, protons are pulled out and with the speed of light and delivered to the affected area. It is a much more focused delivery and doesn’t leave anything behind.

The treatment has been around for 50 years and 50,000 people have been treated worldwide, but that figure pales in comparison to those treated by standard radiation. Chon believes that better software and overall technology has allowed places like Harvard Medical center, where he perfected his skills, to pioneer modern day treatment of proton therapy,

The procedure does not hurt and like standard radiation it is done over eight weeks, five days a week at 30 minutes a session. “The most commons side affects are bowel, fatigue and rectal bleeding, but it is minimilized with this treatment. And secondary cancer levels can be reduced by 50 percent,” said Chon.

The PSA level normally goes down about one month after treatment is started and then there is a steady slow decline. Iacobazzo finished his treatment at the end of May.

While experiencing minor side effects, his PSA has gone down from 39 to 13. During that time, he and his ten fellow patients formed a support group called the Brotherhood of the Blue Bottle referring to the bottle of water that they must drink prior to treatment.

“We’ve come together through sharing our experience,” he said. “We were constantly asking each other questions about our treatments; it has been immensely helpful to identify with these guys.”

Iacobazzo would like to see more people looking into this form of treatment and encourages others to call the center and find out if it’s right for them. “I want to share this knowledge with my neighbors and men who don’t talk about this. This treatment saves your life and your sensuality,” said Iacobazzo. And it is covered by insurance and Medicaid/Medicare, he added.

Chon is very pleased with Iacobazzo’s results: “Matt is an amazing guy. The wisest people in the world give us their trust to take care of them. I am extremely proud that we have taken care of sick people.”

Proton treatment can also help other forms of cancer and Chon‘s group at Harvard could not accommodate the demand. They had to turn away over 70 percent of patients who were seeking the treatment.

“Being the only proton therapy treatment in New Jersey, we are happy to be part of a solution. Other forms of cancer that proton therapy has helped: pediatric, lung, esophageal and others. Presently, there is a trial open for breast cancer also.”

Chon suggests a visit to the center to talk with a healthcare professional.

ProCure Treatment Center, Somerset, Tel. 877-967-7628 www.procure.com/nj




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