Innovation and expansion at University of Kansas Health System helps Wyandotte County thrive

By Erin Stryka

The University of Kansas Health System—home to the region’s only National Cancer Institute designated cancer center—recently received news that demonstrates why that designation is a boon to Wyandotte County: In November it became one of only 16 cancer centers to offer the newly FDA-approved CAR T cell therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients.

Dr. Joseph McGuirk, director of The Division of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapeutics, says the therapy is a major innovation. “The plain truth is we had nothing effective to offer lymphoma patients in this situation before immunotherapy,” said Dr. McGuirk. “Once they went through two rounds of chemo without success, there was a brick wall. While this therapy won’t work for everyone in every case, it has had a significant success rate.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, 72,240 people will be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, making it one of the most common cancers in the United States. The CAR T cell therapy has been approved for adults with certain types of the blood cancer who have not responded to or have relapsed after at least two kinds of standard treatment.

The availability of the new CAR T therapy adds to a host of other treatments that draw patients and their families to the University of Kansas Health System—people who are coming from Wyandotte County and all over the world. Increased demand for this high level of care led to the opening of Cambridge Tower A, which offers 92 new beds and 11 operating rooms to acutely ill patients. The $360 million building is located at the corner of 39th Avenue and Cambridge Street, and at 286 feet tall it’s a major presence in Wyandotte County’s Rosedale neighborhood.

Kathy and Gayle at Cambridge
KS Rep. Kathy Wolfe-Moore, RDA Executive Director Erin Stryka, and Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communication at The University of Kansas Hospital Gayle Sweitzer

“We have become a destination facility for patients across the country,” said Bob Page, the Health System’s president and chief executive officer. “When people are incredibly sick, the sickest of the sick, they head to an academic medical center. I believe our obligation is to create capacity so this population can access the advanced medicine they need for their care.”

As home to the Health System, Wyandotte County benefits greatly from the hospital’s presence and its innovations. Sick Wyandotte Countians have easy access to a world-class hospital, and the families of out-of-town patients visit the county’s hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Medical and nursing students learn from doctors and researchers at the top of the field, and some choose to continue serving Wyandotte County after their education.

Cambridge Tower A offers even more amenities that benefit the community. The Health System recently held a neighborhood open house at the Tower before patients and staff moved in. Among its features:

  • innovative technologies, including the first iMRI in the region, which allows neurosurgeons to look at high-resolution images of the brain during surgical procedures;
  • rooms designed so that patients’ families can stay close in comfort, with sleeper sofas, charging stations and reading lights;
  • a pizza oven in the hospital cafe,
  • attractive landscaping,
  • and a 2,000-space parking garage that should relieve parking difficulties in the Rosedale neighborhood.

Nurse Erin

Cambridge Tower A will continue to increase in capacity: the first seven levels were opened to patients on November 7th, and the 11th level opens in spring 2018. Three currently-empty floors were built to accommodate future expansion.

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