OpEd | Proton Beam cancer treatment in Peoria at OSF

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center has filed an application with the Illinois Health Department for licensing to construct and operate a comprehensive cancer center and proton beam radiation facility in Peoria. The center is expected to cost $237 million and will be constructed on NE Glen Oak and Armstrong avenues. The application is slated for review by the Health Facilities & Services Review Board in Chicago on Feb. 25. Spokeswoman for OSF Shelli Dankoff states significant local fundraising will be needed. The facility could open by June 2024.

The proton beam is one of the most advanced forms of cancer treatment, and a facility in Peoria would be only the second one in the state.

Community Word published an article in the September 2018 edition about the impact of proton beam therapy on Josh and Danette Swank. Josh was diagnosed with a rare form of tongue cancer. After thoroughly researching options, the couple went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for proton beam treatment. Josh is now doing well and is a major advocate for the medical and economic benefits this new facility could bring to Peoria and Central Illinois.

He has written: “Danette and I are very excited that the application has been applied for by OSF to bring Proton Therapy to Peoria! There are currently only 32 proton centers around the country; ours would be the 33rd (and the only one between Chicago and St. Louis), which will be a significant addition to the medical community here in Peoria.

Without a doubt, philanthropy will play a major role in making this new comprehensive cancer center a reality, and Danette and I look forward to contributing towards and educating people on the benefits of this revolutionary treatment option.

Two years now since my diagnosis and I remain cancer free with hardly any side effects and a great quality of life. My treatment success is a testament to what this technology can accomplish. This is what my dream of bringing Proton Therapy to Central Illinois will offer to our our community.”

In her letter of support, Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth wrote:

“Bringing state-of-the-art proton beam therapy to Central Illinois will improve health outcomes and prevention efforts. With only one other similar proton beam service in Illinois, the establishment of this program within a comprehensive cancer center in Peoria will provide access to people who are unable to effectively relocate to Chicago for a course of treatment and will also improve outcomes and reduce the cost of hospitalizations resulting from adverse outcomes and side effects that are sometimes associated with traditional radiation therapy.”

The Rev. Marvin Hightower, president of the Peoria NAACP, said he and others have met regularly with Illinois Rep. Ryan Spain, vice president of economic development at OSF, about ensuring the construction workforce on OSF projects includes fair minority representation reflective of the minority population in the community.

“If attention is not called to the inequalities, they don’t get looked at and don’t get addressed. We’ve got to be at the table and part of the decision making,” Hightower said. “A diverse workforce can be achieved but there has to be intent. Ryan Spain has been a great partner in this. We had been going in a backwards cycle, but OSF POINTCORE Construction could be a turning point.”

Spain said, “Healthcare is the largest industry segment of the Peoria economy and our future depends greatly on continued growth and success in this field. The Comprehensive Cancer Center will be transformational for our community and enable job opportunities for all Peorians in construction activities and clinical services that come with an investment of this magnitude.

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