KU Health System installs proton therapy equipment, a game-changer in battling cancer in KC

Health

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The future of fighting cancer is coming together in Kansas City, Kansas.

The University of Kansas Health System installed another huge piece of equipment Thursday in what will be its new proton therapy center.

Experts and one local family say having this treatment right in our backyard is a game-changer for people with cancer in the Kansas City area.

Seven-year-old George Langston was diagnosed with a tumor in January 2020. It was about the size of a golf ball under his left eye — where doctors couldn’t operate.

He started chemotherapy, and his mom and dad thought proton therapy instead of radiation would give George a better shot at a normal life.

“(We’re) so blessed that he has his eyesight because the tumor grew around it, and the proton was what was able to keep his ocular nerve undisturbed but kill the tumor,” George’s mom Linda Langston said.

Dr. Ronny Rotondo said proton therapy lowers the potential for issues with memory, concentration and growth hormones.

“We were able to ensure that he has highest chance of local control of tumor while minimizing the potential of long-term effects of his treatment,” Rotondo said.

The Langstons traveled hundreds of miles to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota because proton therapy isn’t offered in Kansas City. That’s changing now.

Video from KU Health System shows crews hoisting 105 tons of equipment into the future proton therapy center.

Like proton therapy itself, accuracy was key with this installation. Crews lowered it through a skylight and into place. The margin for error was only about 1/16th of an inch.

“In just a few months, we’ll be able to offer this treatment to our patients in this region, so it’s very exciting,” Rotondo said.

It will be one of only 39 proton therapy centers in the country.

Soon, patients like George will no longer have to uproot their lives to another state to get this life-saving treatment. Since his proton therapy, George has had six months of good scans.

“Now I’m riding my bike and playing soccer, and I’m going back to school,” the 7-year-old said.

KU Health System expects the center to open in early 2022, marking a milestone in cancer treatment in Kansas City.

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