The Sidewalks of White Plains


Sidewalks of White Plains:

Update from Lowey's Office on Grants for New York Presbyterian Hospital & "Cappelli Center"

Lowey's Chief of Staff does not see matching federal Centers of Excellence Grants being approved until December. First New York State must approve proton accelerator project, then government considers to fund or not to fund, Coleman says.

Says Appropriations Committee prefers a "hospital treatment" facility project in place to fund, over a research-oriented facility.

"We like to see a (state) approved project in place to fund," Claire Coleman says.

Proton therapy "unheard of" on East Coast, due to lack of physician confidence and familiarity with the accelerator.

Coleman defends failure to fund White Plains Tishman Speyer project last year because it was not related to transportation or urban renewal.

She will submit circumstances under which White Plains could get federal funding for new Cappelli Center project, "street improvements" a possible category.

By John F. Bailey


CityLine: April 23, 2001 -- Tappan Hill, Tarrytown

Congresswoman Nita Lowey's Chief of Staff, Claire Coleman, told WPCNR Monday that the Centers of Excellence grants are about 8 months away from being a reality.

Governor George Pataki plans to have federal funds match state funds ($500 million) to launch his biotech Centers of Excellence at six locations around the state. These grants will not be looked at by Congresswoman Lowey's House Appropriations Committee until late this year, most likely in December, Coleman said. "That's usually when we start making decisions on grants, " she reports.

Ms. Coleman was pinch-hitting for her boss, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, at the annual Westchester County Association Senatorial and Congressional Luncheon Monday when she made the remarks exclusively to WPCNR. Ms. Lowey was traveling in the Middle East on Appropriations Committee business, and could not attend the luncheon Monday at Tappan Hill Restaurant in Tarrytown.

Ms. Coleman was asked about the likelihood of Governor Pataki's Centers of Excellence grants being matched by Federal grants. Pataki has pledged $500 million in state funds, expecting another $500 million in federal funds to launch the biotech program.

New York Presbyterian Hospital has already been designated by the Empire State Development Corporation as its choice to be the New York City region "Center of Excellence" location, having already been awarded $250,000 by the Empire State Development Corporation for the Bourne Research Lab facility on its property. (This money was confirmed to WPCNR by the ESDC.) The hospital plans to house a proton accelerator in one of two new buildings planned for the hospital property bordering Bryant Avenue as the centerpiece of its Center of Excellence facility.

Coleman said Ms. Lowey has had meetings with Governor Pataki and is aware of the Governor's Centers of Excellence plan, and has the program in mind. However, she said that appropriations for the grants would not be hammered out until late this year, most likely December. She also said the Appropriations Committee "likes a hospital treatment facility already approved and 'in-place' to fund with one of its grants, rather than a research only facility."

Proton therapy a non-invasive, highly effective cancer treatment, "a mystery" on the east coast.

The Proton Treatment Center in Loma Linda, California, currently is the world's only proton accelerator treatment facility. There is an early model edition of the instrument in use at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, but the Loma Linda machine is considered to be the "state-of-the-art." Geoffrey Thompson, spokesman for New York Presbyterian Hospital, has said recently that the software for the Boston facility does not operate as effectively as that of the Loma Linda installation.

WPCNR received an in-person report on the proton accelerator in a news conference at New York Presbyterian Hospital last week: The proton accelerator, developed under grants from the Department of Energy and Fermi Research Labs uses protons to treat 46 forms of cancer in Loma Linda, California.

The accelerator has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is accepted as a reimbursable form of treatment by Health Maintenance Organizations. It is used to treat internal veinous bundles (cancerous tumors) and has been documented as achieving a 90% cure rate. Of the more than 5,500 patients who have completed treatments, 3,000 of them are men with prostate cancer. The therapy is noninvasive and curtails side affects associated with conventional x-ray radiation treatments.

The accelerator treatment has recently expanded to treat macular degeneration (burst blood vessels in the eye), that affects 3.4 million elderly persons nationally. According to Dennis Valencia, Vice President of Sales & Business Development, of Optivus Technology, Inc., builder of the accelerator, 260 patients have been treated as part of a clinical study with 90% experiencing "control of the disease," and 67%, improved vision. Treatment results of an ongoing macular degeneration trial showed that 89 percent of patients with wet type age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) demonstrated control of the disease 18 months after being treated with protons.

(In contrast, laser surgery on Florence Hess, a relative of this reporter who had macular degeneration in both eyes, simply arrested the disease with no improvement in vision, and did not eliminate the spread of the disease to Mrs. Hess' other eye.)

The accelerator is most recently being used in the treatment of breast cancer, and tumors in the eye, head, neck and spinal column and liver. Valencia said that lymphatic cancer in its early stages is another theater where the accelerator can play a role in that its precision proton treatment can eliminate the small cancerous growths that begin in the lymph glands.

The major advantage to proton therapy is that the proton beam is focused tightly, eliminating any radiation damage to surrounding tissue, resulting in fewer side affects according to Valencia. Patients are able to take their therapy and walk out and play golf, he said, the procedure is that easy.

It is also showing a remarkable record in treating terminally ill cancer patients.

Valencia said that "no other option cancer patients" have been treated very successfully with the proton accelerator. He cited patients with tumors too close to the spinal cord to be operated on conventionally, as being cases the accelerator can treat successfully.

He said that 46 persons with lung cancer told they have some 6 months to live, show an 87% local control rate of the disease after proton accelerator treatment, significantly higher than the 50% rate achieved by typical X-Ray therapy. This was reported in the Fall 1999 issue of Chest and presented at the International Proton Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG). The magazine reported proton therapy achieved 87 percent local tumor control, significantly higher than the average 50 percent control rate achieved using traditional radiation.

Valencia explained the eye-brow raising results: "Cancer is not considered fully cured until beyond a 5-year time period.We have not been treating these lung patients for more than 4 years. So, as time goes by, we will track these patients along with the growing list of new patients. It is more than likely going to decrease as time progresses, but certainly (proton therapy results are) much better than the 6 to 12 month (original) prognosis."

Asked why this therapy is not widely recommended (or known about according to preliminary WPCNR contacts) on the East Coast, Mr. Valencia told WPCNR, "Your point about east-coast physician lack of awareness is due to the focus that many of the physicians are only comfortable recommending therapies that they have more experience with and local access to. This is why it is important to bring a regional facility into the tri-state region (NY, NJ, CT). The impact would be huge."

As of today, Valencia reports the University of Florida is planning to break ground on their proton facility in Jacksonville by the end of 2001. "We completed a preliminary project design effort for them and currently they (University of Florida) are internally evaluating their project specific needs and are working to finalize their funding efforts."

The Anderson medical facility in Houston is also reported very close to acquiring the Loma Linda proton accelerator technology.

Accelerator awaiting grant a new way to treat prostate cancer without side effects

A recent news release from Optivus Technology, Mr. Valencia's company, creator of the accelerator at Loma Linda reported protons achieve the same or better results in treating prostate cancer when compared with surgery or radiation.

Data presented on 643 prostate cancer patients showed an overall disease-free survival rate of 89 percent five years following the treatment. These data were published in the Fall issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology.

Timetable for New York grants:

Ms. Lowey's Chief of Staff Coleman said that the federal grants needed to fund such a center of excellence would not be considered until late in the year, and based on what she said Monday, New York State would have to pre-approve the facility before funding from Ms. Lowey's Appropriations Committee would be considered.

The facility envisioned by the New York Presbyterian Hospital is projected by Valencia to cost $100 million. New York State under the Pataki plan sees funding six biomedical Centers of Excellence at costs of $50 million each (in state funds), so it appears it will take $50 million granted first from New York State, plus $50 million in federal funds to build the Proton Treatment Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Coleman queried on "Cappelli Center" aid for White Plains.

In a related grant question, WPCNR asked Ms. Coleman why her predecessor as Chief of Staff for Ms. Lowey, Mathew Traub, had advised city of White Plains officials last spring that no government aid was available to help White Plains fund the Tishman Speyer Town Center.

Ms. Coleman said she was familiar with Traub's involvement with the White Plains delegation that had requested the aid. She reports that the government could not fund a parking garage that served a retail and entertainment complex. She said that unless such a complex served a transportation-oriented need, it would not qualify for such funding. She said the government could fund such items as "streetscape renovation" because that was transportation or infrastructure oriented.

WPCNR asked Ms. Coleman to outline the circumstances under which White Plains could conceivably receive an appropriation from Ms. Lowey's committee perhaps for the new "Cappelli Center" which will be unveiled Tuesday afternoon in City Hall by Louis Cappelli, the developer who purchased the Macy's property from Tishman Speyer Monday. She said she would research it and advise WPCNR.


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