Vernon Cancer Center Breaks Ground



Newton-Wellesley Hospital and MGH to Collaborate on Radiation Oncology Services

NEWTON, Mass. (June, 2008) – In America, one-half of all men and one-third of all women will develop cancer in their lifetime – a startling statistic. In fact, experts predict that the number of cancer patients in Massachusetts is expected to increase 18 percent from 2000 to 2010. Fortunately, there are many reasons to be hopeful as great strides have been made in diagnosis and treatment, and many cancers are now treatable and curable. The pervasiveness of the disease, however, dictates that more cancer centers are needed in our communities.

While Newton-Wellesley Hospital has a strong tradition of providing excellent medical care for cancer patients, including general oncology, surgery and chemotherapy, the missing piece has been radiation therapy. Since 50% of all cancer treatment requires radiation, this is a critical component of a cancer program.

To address this need, the Joan and James Vernon Cancer Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital recently broke ground on the site of the former Emergency Department. The Vernon Cancer Center, slated to open in 2009, will occupy approximately 25,000 square feet and will be located on two levels in the main hospital.

Through a lead gift from Amos and Barbara Hostetter, the Center will recognize and honor Joan and James Vernon of Weston.  Joan, a nurse and caregiver to many friends and community members, passed away in 2005 of cancer. Her husband, Dr. James Vernon, a compassionate physician and gifted surgeon whose career has spanned nearly four decades at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, will help design and guide this center.

“In the almost 40 years I have worked here, we as a staff have worked hard to develop a sophisticated and expert level of care for our cancer patients,” says Dr. Vernon. “The Center offers Newton-Wellesley Hospital the opportunity to become a comprehensive cancer treatment site with the addition of radiation services. It is rewarding for everyone at the Hospital, a great honor for me and a great service for our patients.”

Radiation oncology will be a clinical collaboration of Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital Radiation Oncology Services. One floor of the Center will be dedicated to providing patients with state-of-the-art radiation oncology services. This space will house the linear accelerator and the CT simulator – both new services at the Hospital. The radiation oncology floor will also have three patient exam and consult rooms for all radiation therapy patients.

Under the leadership of Jay Loeffler, MD, Chief of the Department of Radiation Oncology at MGH, the radiation oncology area of the Center will provide advanced treatment planning for patients diagnosed with cancer. Medical specialists trained in radiation oncology will use the CT simulator to calibrate the exact location where the patient will need radiation. The use of a CT simulator allows specialists to pinpoint the specific site of the cancer cells providing a more precise location for radiation from the linear accelerator. This method leaves more healthy cells unaffected by the treatment providing more advanced therapy to patients who require radiation as part of their treatment plan. The Cancer Center will open with one linear accelerator; however, future plans include space for a second device. Radiation oncology services will include both Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT).

“Having radiation oncology available on our campus facilitates our collaborative approach with MGH and provides multidisciplinary care for cancer patients,” says Tim O’Connor, MD, Chief of Hematology/Oncology and Assistant Clinical Director of the Vernon Cancer Center. “In addition, patients will no longer have to travel into Boston for their radiation therapy. This enhances their quality of life by allowing them to receive all of their treatment at a convenient location in familiar surroundings.”

To make the experience as comfortable as possible for patients, the new space will provide access to wireless Internet service as well as options for music during treatment. Designers have created a soothing environment throughout the Center with comforting aesthetic features to create a warm and relaxing atmosphere.

The Vernon Cancer Center will also allow patients access to advanced cancer care from Newton-Wellesley oncologists – close to home. The additional floor of the Center will provide medical oncology and chemotherapy services. New England Hematology and Oncology Associates (NEHOA) will be moving their practice from 65 Walnut Street, Wellesley to the Newton-Wellesley Hospital campus to provide patients with a convenient setting to receive all of their medical oncology care. This area of the Center will include 23 infusion bays and 20 exam rooms.

“As cancer therapy has developed and progressed it has become more common for patients to undergo a multi-modality treatment plan,” says Dr. Vernon. “We are now offering all these treatments in one location, which simplifies the choices patients must make and the traveling they have to do for their treatment. It also enables the same support system to carry patients through their entire treatment, which is a more seamless and caring way of delivering cancer therapy.”

“The Vernon Cancer Center will additionally focus on supportive care. We hope to further develop our existing services to help our patients and their families cope with this disease,” says Jeffrey Wisch, MD, Associate Chief of Oncology and Clinical Director, Vernon Cancer Center. “All of the services we provide have the same mission – providing support and helping patients and their families deal with cancer. Treating cancer is not just about treating a disease, it’s about treating the whole person and their family.”

Some of the additional services that the team at the Center will be focusing on include:
• Nutritional support to help patients get adequate nutrition and meet their dietary needs before, during and after their treatment;
• Psychological and social services to help patients and their families deal with the emotional impact of the initial diagnosis and treatment;
• Therapeutic services such as massage and relaxation methods;
• Specialized palliative care services that focus on the pain, symptoms and stress of a cancer diagnosis; and 
• Pain management services tailored to deal with each patient’s unique diagnosis giving him or her a better quality of life.

“Newton-Wellesley also has a dedicated inpatient oncology unit that serves as an optimal environment for cancer patients needing hospitalization,” adds Dr. Wisch. “The medical team along with specialized oncology nurses continuously and rigorously monitor patient care and offer exceptional services to our cancer patients.”

About the Technology
A linear accelerator, also known as a linac, is the device most commonly used for providing external beam radiation treatments. This technology delivers a uniform dose of high-energy X-ray to the area of the patient’s tumor to destroy the cancer cells while sparing the surrounding non-cancerous tissue. The beam is released from part of the accelerator called a gantry, which rotates around the patient. During treatment, the patient lies on a moveable bed to receive their radiation therapy. Radiation can be delivered to the tumor from any angle by rotating the gantry and moving the treatment bed.

Treatment with the linear accelerator is further enhanced by the addition of a CT simulator. CT simulation is one of the latest advances in radiation oncology. This technology provides the most accurate process available to localize, define and reconstruct a patient’s tumor in three-dimension. Once the CT simulator conducts the scan (which takes only three to five minutes), the information is transferred to the three-dimensional planning computer and the linear accelerator. The simulator produces an image of both the tumor and the healthy tissue surrounding it, which the patient’s radiation oncologist uses to create an individualized treatment plan unique to the patient’s anatomy. Using these images, radiation specialists are able to map the resulting treatment coordinates with a high degree of accuracy.

About the Campaign for the Vernon Cancer Center
The Newton-Wellesley Hospital Charitable Foundation is currently reaching out to the community to raise $12 million for the Joan and James Vernon Cancer Center. The Foundation has already raised $10 million in gifts and pledges, which includes the Hostetter donation and other leadership gifts from Kathleen and Robert Stansky and Jack McCarthy. Many naming opportunities are still available. For more information, contact Joan Archer, Vice President of Development at 617-243-6243, or visit

Rachel Kagno
Public Affairs & Marketing
Newton-Wellesley Hospital

Find a Doctor

Find primary care physicians and specialists.


Classes - Yoga, CPR, and more

Newton-Wellesley offers a variety of wellness center and childbirth education classes throughout the year. Learn CPR, practice yoga, prepare a sibling for a new child in the family, and more.
» Class info


2015 Top Docs List

More than 30 Newton-Wellesley affiliated physicians made Boston magazine's annual list recognizing some of the area's best doctors.
» Learn More  

Hospital Ranked #11

US News and World Report has ranked Newton-Wellesley Hospital 11th in Massachusetts.
» Learn More