ProCure launches its proton therapy center in Oklahoma City

Published: Thursday, July 9, 2009 7:00 am By: Dusty Somers

The Oklahoman

Oklahomans seeking cancer treatment Wednesday got another option with the opening of the $120 million ProCure Proton Therapy Center at 5901 W Memorial Road in Oklahoma City.

In fact, executives with ProCure Treatment Centers Inc. believe the facility will attract patients from across the country. Up to 1,500 patients a year will be accepted into the center for treatment of head, neck, brain, central nervous system and prostate cancers.

The new ProCure center puts the state in the same class medically as others that can provide the "gold standard" for radiation therapy, said Hadley Ford, ProCure CEO.

"From a medical perspective, it really puts Oklahoma City on the map," he said.

It is only the sixth proton therapy center in the country, giving patients with cancerous tumors a new kind of radiation option.

Unlike traditional X-ray radiation, proton therapy uses an external beam that can precisely target solid tumors without causing damage to surrounding healthy tissue, said Hadley Ford, chief executive of ProCure.

"You're able to treat to the specific points of the body at very high energy deposition levels, and not damage any tissue after the tumor," Ford said. "If you have a tumor that's up against a critical organ, you can treat right to the edge of the tumor, and not harm the critical organ."

Partnering with ProCure are Radiation Medicine Associates, a radiation oncology practice that will provide clinical care, and Integris Health, which will offer treatment for patients' ongoing medical needs.

Integris' new Cancer Institute of Oklahoma is being built adjacent to the 60,000-square-foot ProCure center, and is scheduled to open in October, said Stanley Hupfeld, Integris CEO.

The ProCure facility contains four treatment rooms, one of which is currently open.

Dr. William Goad, medical director for ProCure, said the center plans to open another room every three months. The center is expected to be fully operational by next spring, he said.

Stewart Taylor, an Oklahoma City resident who had proton therapy for prostate cancer five years ago at a center in California, said during his 2 months of treatment, he was able to maintain a normal quality of life, even taking golf lessons.

"I talk to patients who had other treatments and are dealing with side effects every day of their lives and I'm very grateful I had the chance to have proton therapy," he said. "I'm one of the lucky ones. I can go for days without even thinking about having had cancer."

Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon, who invested about $70 million to help bring the center to Oklahoma City and is on ProCure's board, said Oklahoma residents won't have to go too far to receive the same kind of treatment.

"For far too long, cancer patients in Oklahoma have had to travel to receive first-class radiation therapy from protons," McClendon said.

ProCure's Oklahoma City center is the first for Indiana-based ProCure Treatment Centers. The company is building and developing other centers in Illinois, Michigan and Florida, and Oklahoma has provided a template for how the ProCure does business, Ford said.

"Every area of the country we go into, we actually use Oklahoma and the environment in which we found ourselves as the sort of measuring stick for whether we're going to like that market or not," Ford said.

"I've been struck by the can-do attitude of the city and the region."

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