New Proton Therapy Center Debuts in Kansas

By HCO Staff

KANSAS CITY, Kan.—Following years of planning, The University of Kansas Health System has begun accepting patients at its new proton therapy treatment center, designed by architecture planning and design firm Hoefer Welker in partnership with Stantec.

One of only about 40 proton therapy centers in the United States, the new facility is the only cancer center to offer this specialized form of radiation treatment throughout Kansas and its surrounding states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Arkansas. Treatment is offered through The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Construction of the new proton therapy center was done in partnership with Kansas City-based McCownGordon Construction and construction firm Linbeck, based in Fort Worth, Texas. Located in Kansas City, Kan., the facility spans 38,200 square feet.

Supported by Stantec’s proton expertise, Hoefer Welker is now one of a handful of firms in the U.S. with expertise specific to proton therapy treatment. Throughout the design process, the Hoefer Welker team coordinated with physicians and other members of the medical team to determine the needs of patients, families and caregivers. This included a collaborative visioning session that assessed psychological, sociological and physiological impacts on all involved parties as well as goals and success metrics. Using data gathered during the session, Hoefer Welker designed the facility with a focus on clinical flow, calming aesthetics and an improved patient and staff experience.

“Hoefer Welker led the efforts on much of the interior design, finish and ‘feel’ of the new space, working closely with cancer center providers and staff to ensure patient areas were conducive to healing,” said Jeff Wright, VP of Cancer Services for The University of Kansas Health System. “Patients will greatly benefit from this attention to detail as they seek and receive treatment.”

Hoefer Welker’s services for the treatment center included architectural and interior design; furniture, furnishings and equipment (FF&E); clinical space planning; medical equipment planning and construction administration.

The new proton treatment center additionally includes a protective concrete vault to guard against unnecessary radiation. The vault walls are six to nine feet thick and house 160 tons of equipment. Construction of the vault required 2,721 cubic yards of concrete and 377,513 pounds – or 125 pickup trucks’ worth – of steel rebar.

Proton therapy offers a highly specialized and precisely targeted form of radiation treatment using protons – rather than X-rays – to attack tumors. Given the limited availability of proton therapy, many cancer patients have to travel long distances to receive this specialized form of care.

As the region’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s new proton therapy center allows Midwestern patients to remain close to home, families and much-needed support systems while undergoing treatment.

“We’ve been in a proton desert in Kansas; no one should ever have to leave the state to receive the best cancer care available,” said Dr. Terry Tsue, Physician in Chief and VP of Clinical Services at the University of Kansas Health System. “Patients from all over the region can now receive the highest level of proton therapy closer to home from an unparalleled team of nationally and internationally renowned proton experts.”

“Many cancer patients were traveling across several states to receive this specialized treatment. This understandably causes a lot of stress for the patient, their well-being, and their recovery — as well as emotional and financial stress on their caregivers,” added Hoefer Welker Partner and Healthcare Practice Leader Patrick McCurdy, AIA, NCARB. “The capability to provide this treatment close to home, as well as the needed relief for these patients and their caregivers, is a powerful addition to our community and our region.”