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History of the Oncology Program

Oncology services have been provided to New Brunswick residents from Saint John facilities for over one hundred (100) years. In 1901, the installation of an x-ray machine for treatment purposes marked the beginning of radiotherapy treatment.

Between the years 1931-1936, the Saint John General Hospital formed a multidisciplinary cancer clinic which saw 89 patients and administered 534 treatments. By 1955, the hospital employed two physicians who had received specialist training in radiotherapy, one medical physicist and one radiation therapist. These individuals comprised the Department of Radiotherapy.

During this time, researchers discovered that nitrogen mustard, used as a chemical weapon during World War II, possessed therapeutic properties in the treatment for certain types of cancer. Over time new drugs were developed and in 1960 chemotherapy was administered to select patients by the Radiation Oncology physicians at the Saint John General Hospital.

Chemotherapy as an accepted treatment modality, expanded quickly while the medical management of patients receiving these drugs became increasingly complex.

In 1979, the hospital attracted the services of a physician who had received specialized training in chemotherapy. The expertise provided by this physician allowed the department of Radiation Oncology to treat many new patients.

Over the next 10 years the number of chemotherapy treatments administered to patients tripled in number. The outpatient chemotherapy unit became an integral component of patient care that the Radiation Oncology Department changed its name to Department of Oncology.

In 2003-2004 the 53,000 oncology treatments delivered represent a 1000% increase from the 534 treatments in 1936. Acknowledgement of this milestone has come recently in the form of new concept for oncology services. The introduction of program management provides for the co-ordination of the various services involved in oncology care. Co-operative and collaborative strategic planning allows for the highest quality patient care to be provided in a rapidly changing environment.

In 2007 the division of radiation oncology continued the path of providing leading edge treatment delivery by establishing the first IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) program in the Province of New Brunswick. IMRT delivery techniques use several small beams of computer controlled radiation therapy along with IGRT (Image guided Radiation Therapy) resulting in the ability to sculpt radiation doses tightly around the area treated while minimizing doses to normal tissues. The centre has treated over 1000 patients with IMRT/IGRT; sites currently treated with IMRT include prostate, head and neck, brain, and other sites.

In 2010 the centre added two new linear accelerators which improved IGRT imaging quality by providing On Board KV imaging (OBI); this resulted in the ability take higher definition 2D images and 3D Cone beam CT images. Additional enhancements include the ability to reduce treatment times required for IMRT/IGRT treatments by using VMAT (Volumetric Arc Therapy) techniques. The year 2010 also saw the advent of the New Brunswick Stem Cell Transplantation Program for the Province of New Brunswick.

In 2012 the centre established the first Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)/Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRT) program in New Brunswick, prior to this patients were referred out of the Province for this service. To date over 50 patients have received SRS/SRT in the Saint John Department of Oncology.

Oncology services have realized tremendous growth and development over the last one hundred (100) years. Always recognized as a centre of excellence for the diagnosis and treatment of malignant disease, Horizon's Oncology program is acknowledged as a comprehensive service that includes medical oncology, radiation oncology, haematological oncology, stem cell transplantation and clinical trials.

Horizon Health Network leads the way in bringing innovation and efficiencies to deliver sustainable, affordable, safe and quality health-care services to residents of New Brunswick, northern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with a collaborative team approach to offer services in English and French.

It operates 12 hospitals and more than 100 medical facilities, clinics and offices providing medical services ranging from acute care to community based health services. With 1,000 physicians, an annual budget of approximately $1 billion and approximately 12,400 employees, Horizon Health Network's strategic vision focuses on research, innovation, education and health and wellness. Horizon received accreditation status from Accreditation Canada in 2010 and 2013.Horizon is a designated campus of the Dalhousie University Post Graduate Medical Education Program, is affiliated with Memorial University School of Medical Education, as well as the  Saint John School of Radiation Therapy, and has an active Research Services Division.

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