Patient Focused

Inova’s new cancer center will bring holistic care and advanced oncology under one roof.

A rendering of the proton vault, coming in 2019.

Photo courtesy of Inova Schar Cancer Institute

A two-story foyer will welcome visitors to the Inova Schar Cancer Institute—a bright, modern space highlighted by stone walls, wood accents, and large windows. “It’s going to be a beautiful place to be; organic, comfortable, and serene. We want our patients and their families to feel at home and cared for in a very pleasant environment,” says Dr. John Deeken, the institute’s chief medical officer. The institute will provide patients with access to their doctors, imaging, radiation, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, clinical trials, genomics, and psychosocial programs in a single location—alleviating the stress of logistics for patients, he says.

Community support has played an important role in the rise of the institute, led by a $50 million donation from NVR Inc. founder Dwight Schar and his wife, Martha. Headlined by former President George W. Bush, the Inova Health Foundation fundraising dinner, held in May, raised $26 million in the largest-ever single night, non-profit fundraiser in the D.C. area.

Located across from the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, the cancer institute will be the first of several health care facilities to open on Inova’s Center for Personalized Health campus. The cancer institute will open in two phases, beginning in spring 2019. It will include the renovation of existing space for clinical rooms, medical offices, and a pharmacy, along with an addition for radiation facilities, including two linear accelerators, a Cyberknife, two HDR procedure rooms, a breast cancer clinic, and imaging and nuclear medicine suites.

In late 2019, the only two proton vaults in Northern Virginia will open in the radiation space. In the vaults, proton beams are accelerated to half the speed of light before being directed to patients’ tumors. Deeken, a medical oncologist who treats head and neck cancers, is looking forward to offering the new technology. Compared to other forms of radiation, “Protons are much more highly targetable, they can be much more directed at the area that you want to treat and spare even more of the surrounding healthy tissue,” he says.

The institute will continue Inova’s Life with Cancer program, which offers psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families. The program provides access to social workers, psychiatrists, support groups, exercise programs, and massage and art therapy. According to Deeken, “The whole patient is cared for here,” he says.

Connected to the cancer institute is a research building featuring wet and dry labs that will be a joint effort between Inova, the UVA School of Medicine, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The number of cancer patients increased 30 percent in Northern Virginia in recent years due to the aging Baby Boomer population, driving the need for a world-class cancer center in the area, Deeken says. “We’re going to build a center that has … the best physicians, coordinated care, clinical and translational research in a beautiful environment.”

This article originally appeared in our December 2018 issue.

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