When patients complete cancer treatment at ProCure Proton Therapy Center, they get a new title: graduate.
A small celebration is held to congratulate patients who graduate from proton therapy, a treatment that first became available in Oklahoma in July 2009.
Dick Marshall is graduate No. 30.
"I have eliminated prostate cancer," Marshall said. "It's a great thing."
Marshall was among the center's first patients and now one of its biggest advocates. He chose the therapy over other forms of radiation after seeing how a friend responded to proton treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Close to home
The Oklahoma City man said he was glad to find treatment closer to home so he could continue his work as a Realtor. The ProCure center is at 5901 W Memorial Road.
"This sounds strange, but I almost looked forward to going to treatment," Marshall said. "They have the most caring, compassionate staff I have ever encountered."
About 150 patients from 15 states have been treated at ProCure, including 109 for prostate cancer, 26 for brain tumors and 14 children. The center also has developed new treatment protocols for gastrointestinal cancers that will be used by centers across the country, Medical Director Dr. Sameer Keole said.
Now fully operational with four treatment rooms, the center can accommodate 1,500 patients a year and employs about 65 people.
Patients have come from across the country, Keole said, and about 90 percent of cases are covered by Medicare or health insurance plans.
"If something can be treated with X-rays, it can be treated with protons," he said. "We've done a very good job of getting most things approved."
Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation cancer treatment that precisely targets tumors. This precision reduces damage to healthy tissue so patients experience fewer short- and long-term side effects than with standard X-ray radiation.
The OU Cancer Institute also will have a proton therapy unit. That center is expected to open in 2011.
Keole said he welcomes the additional center because it will raise awareness of the benefits of proton therapy. He estimates that 3,500 Oklahomans each year would benefit from proton therapy.
"Between our two centers, we couldn't even treat 50 percent of patients from Oklahoma, much less surrounding areas."