Rare Proton Beam Therapy will treat thousands of cancer patients starting in 2023 at OSF Healthcare Cancer Center

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Specialized care for cancer patients will soon happen right here in Peoria.

The $237-million project is expected to provide treatment for thousands of patients annually starting in 2023.

This proton beam therapy is one out of 32 of its kind in all of North America. It offers more precise treatment which is less invasive and dangerous for the patient.

The proton beam itself costs between $60-65 million.

WMBD spoke exclusively with OSF Healthcare’s CEO Robert Sehring who says employees will be local from OSF and Illinois Cancer Center.

“Many of those folks are already employed.  They live here, they work here.  Whether they’re part of a surgical group, whether they’re part of the Illinois Cancer Center, whether they’re part of OSF.  We already have many of those specialists here.  We do think there are opportunities for growth and research.  We think that’s an important aspect,” Sehring said.

Sehring says this is treatment is especially effective for children.

“The proton beam itself treats very specialized cancers. It’s most prevalently used for children. What it can do, is have a greater target on the tumor itself. It reduces the destruction of other good tissue and organs surrounding it by keeping the beam from going all the way through the tumor and through the rest of the body,” Sehring said.

Sehring adds it’s also very important for women who are battling breast cancer and adds the treatment will not negatively impact the heart through procedures.

“Another segment of the population that is very important for is women.  Especially with breast cancer on the left side.  Those treatments can oftentimes impact the heart, which is on the left side.  So having this proton beam be able to be more directed, to not be more invasive after the tumor itself is critically important,” Sehring said.

While it will take a lot of money to build this Center, he has a plan in store to ensure it all gets raised and the building gets built.

“An important component of that is fundraising. We hope to raise a considerable amount of that. Actually that will be a critical milestone that’ll have to get passed. But beyond that, OSF is funding the balance of that. Some of that in the future will come in the way of research in grants and other opportunities,” Sehring said.

“As we think about this Center and why we believe it can be different, first of all, the proton beam is an aspect of it. But more importantly than that, it’s the patient experience. It’s being able to bring together diagnostics together with medical specialists. Whether it’s medical oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology to develop a comprehensive plan for a patient,” he added.

Sehring added the OSF Ministry Headquarters in downtown Peoria is coming along, but is a little behind schedule to being completed.

“It is a 114-year-old building.  You always find in any renovations surprises, they’re never positive surprises.  But we have worked through those, we do think there’s a path forward that we’ll be able to move into that building in 2021.  We’re probably 6-8 months behind where we would like to be, but we see lots of opportunities to shorten that timeframe a little bit.  But then be able to execute on the rest of the construction by 2021,” Sehring said.

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