Patients no longer need to travel to big-city academic medical centers to access the latest technology, treatments

If you’re coping with a cancer diagnosis, you may feel overwhelmed by uncertainties, but one thing is for sure: You do not need to cross the bridge to find world-class care. 

With treatment offered in Salisbury and Ocean Pines — and a surgical team in Salisbury to provide care as needed — Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute continues to prove patients no longer need to travel to big-city academic medical centers; a superior healthcare team is right here on the Shore.

As the region’s leading cancer treatment facility, diagnosing more than 1,400 patients per year, the Institute continues to blaze the trail. It boasts an expanded research department that gives patients access to the latest clinical trials; a brand-new surgical robot that improves precision and reduces pain; and a unified healthcare team that embraces the latest treatment methods.

“More people would go to the Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute if they knew they could get this care closer to home,” said Joan Bartels, a Selbyville resident who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. “You have so many doctors working for you and it’s just wonderful. They’re always there to listen and really help you.”


A Robust Clinical Research Department

For the past 18 years, PRMC has been building a robust research department and forging exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network and national cooperative groups for participation in clinical trials.

“It’s important because we’re giving patients on the Eastern Shore access to innovative treatments which otherwise would have required them to leave the Shore,” said Stephanie Cason, MS, RN, Coordinator of the Richard A. Henson Research Institute.

The Research Institute offers clinical trials for cancer and heart disease, as well as multiple other disciplines, and is working to expand its scope even more now that it has a newly renovated suite of offices at PRMC. Research nurses, physicians, pharmacists and support staff are all part of the team.

“People who participate in clinical trials often feel their care is much more personalized,” Cason said. 

That’s because each patient enrolled in a clinical trial has a coordinator/nurse who facilitates their care, helps them understand the clinical trial process and follows up with them throughout the experience. Clinical trials are strictly regulated by the federal government to ensure they meet the highest scientific and ethical standards.

“On average, patients in clinical trials have better outcomes than those who receive community standard therapy,” said David Cowall, MD, Director of the Richard A. Henson Research Institute.

So, how do you know if a clinical trial is right for you? Talking it over with your physician is a good first step — PRMC’s clinical research team works hand in hand with many doctors’ offices to help get their patients into appropriate trials.

Revolutionary Technology

Peninsula Regional Medical Center first introduced advanced robotic surgery for patients in 2007. Now it’s advancing that technology even further with the brand-new da Vinci Xi® Surgical System.

The da Vinci XI, the state-of-the-art robotic surgical technology available in the world today, is the third robot to be installed at PRMC in the past decade, and upgrades substantially the capabilities of both the S and SI systems already used in specialized operations. This addition makes the Peninsula Institute for Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery (PILARS) the most extensive on the Delmarva Peninsula.

“We’ve known for 10 years now that robotics allows smaller incisions, and that translates into faster recovery and shorter hospital stays,” said Kurt Wehberg, MD, Medical Director of Thoracic Oncology for PRMC’s Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute. “Our team of specially trained surgeons has pinpoint accuracy, dexterity and control, which means less tissue damage and less pain.”

The da Vinci Xi, Si and S Surgical Systems are used across a spectrum of minimally invasive procedures at PRMC including cardiac and thoracic surgery, urologic surgery, gynecologic surgery and general surgery. Since 2007, nearly 1,800 Delmarva patients have benefitted from the revolutionary technology available at PRMC.


“The Xi also offers an aerodynamic profile, which allows us to better position it during connection to the patient and ultimately a more precise surgery,” said urologist and surgeon Mark Shimko, MD, PILARS Medical Director.  “Another outstanding benefit is that the new robot is easier for surgeons to manipulate, and it provides a simulator that allows virtual education/training and the opportunity for self-assessment and evaluation.  These are all significant advancements that will help to improve surgical performance and patient outcomes.”  


The Latest Treatment Methods

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your body’s own natural defenses could fight cancer? Well, that’s exactly what happens when immunotherapy is administered. This new treatment method allows the immune system to recognize and battle the disease.

According to Feras Abdul Khalek, MD, a medical oncologist with the Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute, immunotherapy has shown positive results against many types of cancer, including melanoma, lung cancer, head and neck cancers, kidney and bladder cancers and lymphomas. 

“The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t have the side effects that standard chemotherapy has such as nausea, vomiting and extreme fatigue,” he said. “Overall, it’s very well tolerated.”

With immunotherapy, drugs are administered via IV over the course of either two or three weeks, depending on the medication. Eligibility is determined by a combination of molecular tests on the patient’s cancer specimen and clinical factors such as if the patient has previously undergone treatment.

The success is variable depending on the type of cancer the patient has, Dr. Abdul Khalek said, but overall it can cause a 10 to 20 percent durable response in metastatic, Stage IV, cancer.

To learn more about the Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute, call 410-912-6939 or visit

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