Four months after shutting down, Oklahoma City's first proton therapy center is back up and running, providing state-of-the-art cancer care to patients from around the region and the world. The new owners are planning to advance the facility's mission even further.
Its new name is the Oklahoma Proton Center and it was paid for by Oklahomans who are invested in finding a cure and the proper care. For patients suffering with prostate cancer, this week finally feels like hope.
Doctors are once again able to offer them the most advanced radiation treatment available, through proton therapy.
“It’s completely painless,” said patient Daniel Keeslar. “It’s not invasive at all, and I feel completely comfortable here with the staff and with the whole procedure.”
The previous owners of the facility filed for bankruptcy in December, largely due to a lack of insurance coverage for the treatment. Locals decided to step in to help, though, and are actively working with insurers to expand coverage.
“These are individuals, businessmen, that have some tie to the facility,” explained the new Chief Development Officer David Raubach. “They’ve either had family members treated here or friends treated here, so they were very motivated and supportive.”
The group purchased the center as is, keeping former staff and bringing on the country's top doctors in the field. The new Medical Director of Clinical Research and Education is Dr. John Han-Chih Chang, who felt a personal responsibility to get it back up and running after helping to launch the programs at Northwestern University and Vanderbilt University.
“There are only 30 proton centers in the United States at this point,” Chang said, “and that’s a limited resource for a very advanced treatment for cancer and we can’t lose that.”
A lead researcher in the field, Chang now looks forward to working with students at the University of Oklahoma on a number of upcoming studies.
“Utilizing protons is critically important, especially in areas where you have a lot of vital structures within the region,” Chang said. “The research that we’re doing here is going to be part of a collaboration on a national level to help us find the best treatment for patients for all types of cancers.”
Next week, the center will start serving patients with lung, brain, head and neck cancers. Breast cancer patients will be welcomed in the weeks to follow.