Ten years ago this month, The University of Kansas Cancer Center and Kansas City Cancer Center held a ribbon-tying celebration at the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park. The event marked the beginning of a merger designed to give more patients access to the very best cancer care – and the start of a new era for cancer care in our region.
The merger brought together the area’s premier academic medical center and premier network of outpatient cancer care locations. By becoming one team of physicians and staff, The University of Kansas Cancer Center could now provide the latest treatment options, clinical trials and exceptional care to patients across the region, close to home.
Before then, The University of Kansas Cancer Center was already growing rapidly. In 2007, the cancer center opened Kansas City’s largest outpatient cancer care facility at the Westwood Campus.
In 2008, Annette Bloch’s transformational $20 million gift supported major advances for breast imaging, blood and marrow transplant and radiation oncology programs.
“We wouldn’t be the cancer program we are today without Annette Bloch’s incredible generosity or our expansion to Westwood,” says Jeff Wright, vice president of Cancer Services.
“But the addition of the Kansas City Cancer Center was essential to our ability to fulfill our commitment to providing the best cancer care to even more patients. And strengthening and expanding our team helped support efforts to achieve National Cancer Institute designation.”
In a 2011 interview announcing the partnership, President and CEO Bob Page accurately predicted bringing together the expertise and dedication of the two organizations would create a cancer center that would serve patients from across the country, not just Kansas City.
Since then, The University of Kansas Cancer Center has diagnosed and treated patients from 45 states (plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and 19 countries. In 2020 alone, our cancer center had 95,182 patient visits.
Those patients chose our cancer center for many reasons, including the fact that our program has been accredited by the Commission on Cancer three times and has earned recognition as one of the top cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
They also chose to receive their care here because of our cancer team’s comprehensive care options, exceptional outcomes and experience treating the most complex conditions.
Over the past decade, the cancer center has celebrated several milestones, including:
- Starting the nurse navigator program with a single nurse in 2011. Today 32 nurse navigators staff the program, which serves as a model for other cancer centers.
- Earning National Cancer Institute designation in 2012, in partnership with the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Today our cancer center is one of only 71 NCI-designated centers. The cancer center now is working with the university to apply for NCI comprehensive designation.
- Partnering with North Kansas City Hospital in 2013 to provide radiation oncology and medical oncology services.
- Expanding the Sarcoma Center on the Indian Creek Campus in 2014, tripling the space to provide care to even more patients with rare bone and soft tissue cancers.
- Opening the Women’s Cancer Center on the Indian Creek Campus in 2018. The center created a new model where patients with breast and gynecological cancers can see the experts they need in one day and in one location.
- Becoming one of the first centers in the nation to offer CAR T-cell therapy for all five indicators approved by the FDA and enrolling the world’s first adult in the CAR T-cell trial for relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
- Achieving patient satisfaction scores that lead the nation. In 2021, the cancer center’s CGCAHPS scores rank at the top among peer organizations, with scores between the 96th and 99th percentile in all domains.
- Adding state-of-the-art equipment, including five new linear accelerators.
Most recently, the cancer center announced a partnership with The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus to provide advanced cancer care to patients in Topeka and northeast Kansas.
In addition, two major projects are underway that will be open for patients in the coming months:
- The three unfinished floors of Cambridge Tower A will open in late 2021, specifically serving hematology, acute leukemia and cellular therapy patients. The major construction was made possible by a $66 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation.
- The Proton Therapy Center will open in early 2022, bringing this advanced technology to our region for the first time.
Wright says these are just a few examples. Over the past decade, every department has been recognized for exceptional care or innovation, and dozens of cancer center physicians and employees have earned national and local recognition for their individual commitment to patients or the organization.
“While these are incredible accomplishments for any cancer program, the fact that they have been achieved in only 10 years is truly remarkable,” Wright says. “We are excited about every accomplishment, but above all else, we are proud that we continue to expand our ability to care for patients when they and their families need us most.”
“When the very best team of people comes together with a shared commitment to going above and beyond for patients, there’s nothing we can’t achieve,” says Terry Tsue, MD, vice president and physician in chief of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “The past 10 years are only the beginning of an exciting future for The University of Kansas Cancer Center and cancer care in our region and beyond.”