Proton Therapy Equipment Arrives at The University of Kansas Health System Cancer Center
Intensely targeted radiation treatment available only through proton therapy gives cancer patients a fighting chance, using highly energized protons to target tumors in areas where standard radiation would cause too much damage. But if you’re an adult or pediatric cancer patient in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado or Arkansas, a physician’s order for proton therapy translates to “prepare for a long-term stay in another state.” That’s because there are only 37 proton therapy centers in the United States, and none operating in the heartland of America – yet.
About 224 people each year will soon be able to access this life-saving treatment closer to home, thanks to a new proton therapy center under construction at The University of Kansas Health System’s main hospital campus in Kansas City. Construction began in early 2020, and the project hit a major milestone with the delivery of the cyclotron and gantry that will be the heart of this life-saving facility.
Proton therapy provides a carefully targeted beam of protons that deliver cancer-cell-killing radiation across the target tumor, one layer at a time, sparing surrounding healthy tissues from potential damage. For the patient, this means less radiation, fewer side effects or complications, and faster recovery.
Construction began in early 2020, and the project hit a major milestone with the delivery of the cyclotron and gantry that will be the heart of this life-saving facility.
Those witnessing the arrival of the IBA Proteus®ONE proton therapy system, which spent several weeks traveling from Brussels to Houston to Kansas City, may have been surprised to realize that generating a tiny, targeted beam of radiation requires massive equipment. Delivered via a 190-foot, 19-axle flatbed truck traveling just 15 miles per hour across the United States, the gantry and cyclotron together weigh 160 tons. The cyclotron accelerates the protons to generate a proton beam. At the same time, the gantry revolves 220 degrees around the patient, who is further positioned by a specialized table, allowing the beam of protons to be directed at the tumor at any angle.
The multimillion-dollar equipment was recently hoisted inside the new structure by crane, and will spend the next eight to nine months being installed by a specialized team.
Considering the complexity of the multimillion-dollar, 38,199-square-foot project, The University of Kansas Health System chose Hoefer Welker, in partnership with Stantec and other specialized firms, to partner in the planning, design and construction.
Of course, any structure meant to house such enormous machinery would present unique challenges. Add in the weight of the equipment, the fact that proton therapy produces high levels of radiation, and the building site constraints, and the design challenges multiply.
The new proton center provides 34,704 sq. ft. of new construction and 3,495 sq. ft of renovation to the existing Richard and Annette Bloch Radiation Oncology Pavilion.
Of course, any structure meant to house such enormous machinery would present unique challenges.
Due to constraints of the small building site adjacent to the existing facility, the project required creative design. The team opted to design the new proton therapy center on the available site while creating an addition on top of the existing radiation oncology pavilion. That pavilion, along with other facilities undergoing renovations, needed to remain open and operational for the duration of construction, calling for careful planning and a phased approach to minimize disruption.
The proton therapy equipment has intense power demand, and the locations of the TUKHS central plant and other distant utilities presented another unique design challenge. Utilities had to be designed and coordinated to run long and complicated routes through existing campus utility tunnels and several existing buildings, as well as direct-buried underground.
In addition, the unique structure that houses the enormous proton equipment features 6- to 9-foot-thick concrete walls 2 to 2-1/2 stories tall, totaling 5.4 thousand tons of concrete and rebar. Precise coordination and quality control were required to ensure proper installation of the cyclotron, gantry and other components.
The new proton therapy center is designed with room for further expansion as demand grows, offering hope for more people with cancer, much closer to home.
Principal | Healthcare Practice Leader
Patrick brings nearly 30 years of global healthcare expertise in leadership, project management and design excellence. He is passionate about continuous improvement and lean methodology.
About The University of Kansas Health System
The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City is a world-class academic medical center and destination for complex care and diagnosis. We offer more options for patients with serious conditions because of our expertise and leadership in medical research and education. Our physicians are researchers and educators expanding the boundaries of medical knowledge. Their major breakthroughs lead to the life-changing treatments and technologies of the future.