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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The University of Kansas Health System wants to keep the metro at the forefront of cancer therapy.

The NCI-designated KU Cancer Center is part of that and is bringing a cutting edge treatment to Kansas City.

Right now patients have to travel to Oklahoma City or St. Louis to get proton therapy, but soon that’s going to change. The heath system will have a whole new building dedicated to proton treatment, which may be good news for people west of the metro who may not have access to this type of care.

“The University of Kansas Health System is proud to announce that we are bringing proton therapy to Kansas City,” president and CEO Bob Page said.

It’s an announcement years in the making, and it will take about two more years to get the program up and running. Hospital officials said the addition of this treatment will put the hospital on the cutting edge of cancer treatment.

The therapy is described as a targeted radiation treatment that uses protons instead of x-rays to attack cancer. Doctors say it minimizes radiation exposure to organs and surrounding tissue. They believe it will decrease side effects and provide treatment that is targeted for each patient.

The therapy is mostly used in situations where cancer is in a very serious area like the brain, head, spine, neck, liver, prostate and nervous system cancers. The therapy can be used on adults and in pediatrics.

“Other types of radiation then go on beyond that cancer and can then cause damage in normal tissue,” Dr. Terry Tsue said. “The advantage of this therapy, proton therapy, it then hits the cancer and then stops.”

Tsue said this is especially important for pediatric patients who’s bodies are still growing where other radiation treatments can affect their DNA.

“The less radiation you can have to normal cells, the less side effects and less cancers you can cause down the line,” Tsue said. “That’s why pediatrics is a major, major role in this initiative.”

Leaders at the health system said bringing proton therapy to Kansas City will fill a gap to the west where many have to travel long distances for the treatment.

“There is a need,” Page said. “There is no reason for people to have to leave our region, leave our states, to go somewhere else for care if that care can be delivered right here.”

The health system said proton therapy is not for every patient and still needs development, but they hope the University of Kansas can be a major player in the future.

“There are a number of indications that are clear cut right now,” cancer center director Roy Jensen said. “That continues to expand over time, and we want to be a part of the group that really continues to figure this out.”

Hospital officials said they don’t have a cost on the facility yet, but believe they will pay for most of, if not all, with their own funds and possibly some donations. The hospital said other centers have cost around $30-40 million.