Wichita has been on the forefront of cancer care for years, particularly because of collaboration, says Shaker Dakhil, president of the Cancer Center of Kansas and director of oncology services at Via Christi.
Working with cancer patients and survivors takes a team, and over the years that team has developed to include the independent Cancer Center of Kansas, which offers medical oncology; the inpatient Via Christi Cancer Institute; and the Via Christi Cancer Center, which offers outpatient rehabilitation and radiation therapy.
By collaborating, the three entities are able to offer cancer care ranging from a stem cell transplant program to clinical trials to CyberKnife targeted radiation therapy, which aims pinpoints of radiation at tumors without damaging nearby healthy tissue.
Keisha Humphries, oncology administrator at Via Christi Health, said the nurses and others at Via Christi are constantly coming up with new ideas — and giving themselves more work and responsibilities.
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“We do that with a purpose, because there are more survivors now of cancer than ever before, and that is something to celebrate,” Humphries said. “…When you have a great team, and oncology’s a very wonderful team here at Via Christi, we’re able to put forth the ideas and push ourselves to be better, and the winners are our patients.”
Humphries is also the Wichita administrator for the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), which designs and conducts clinical trials for new cancer research.
Wichita has one of 44 NCORPs in the nation, Dakhil said. Over the past five years, four or five of the newest drugs in cancer care have been tested in Wichita, Dakhil said.
At the moment, 93 clinical trials are ongoing through NCORP.
“How we got here is our ability to collaborate and partner with our medical community, and they’ve done a wonderful job being partners with us through the years,” said Mike Mullins, CEO of Via Christi Health. “That’s what makes our cancer program so special. It’s the outcomes, it’s the work they do, it’s the research, it’s the successes they have in instilling hope, in tackling very challenging issues in health.”
For Kim Fairbank of Cimarron, a visit to Via Christi meant she was able to receive the stem cell transplant she needed after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells.
When she researched where to go, she assumed she would have to go far away, to Indiana or Texas.
“I was always told if something big happens, go to the best,” Fairbank said. “That’s why we were looking outside of the area, and then once we started looking we found out Wichita had a wonderful cancer center.”