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Lifesaving and Transformative Proton Therapy

Roman Volkov

July 30, 2021

Roman Volkov is an active and outgoing 10-year-old who loves all sports, but especially baseball and basketball. He’s a huge fan of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Royals catcher Salvador Perez, and his favorite pastime is practicing his batting stance.

Six years ago, however, Roman’s life hung in the balance as he faced an unimaginable diagnosis of stage 4 neuroblastoma of the abdomen. Jyoti Panicker, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, provided Roman's initial critical care and intensive inpatient chemotherapy. She and radiation oncologist Xinglei Shen, MD, then referred the family to Houston, which offered lifesaving proton therapy. The transformative treatment is coming soon to Kansas City, but was not available here when Roman needed it.

Roman's mother, Karen Larson, of Scandia in north central Kansas, credits expertise of our cancer center physicians and proton therapy with saving her son's life. Roman was recently evaluated and continues to be in remission.

"These doctors provided such wonderful advice and supervision in an uncertain and frightening time," Karen says. "Dr. Panicker and Dr. Stephen Smith (retired pediatric hematologist/oncologist) headed Roman's treatment at the hospital.

"Both doctors greeted us on the first day and were tireless in providing treatment, guidance and support throughout Roman's struggle with cancer. Dr. Shen very frankly told me if Roman were his son he would do everything in his power to find a way to a proton beam radiation center."

"Proton therapy is so important because it does not harm surrounding tissue," she continues. "It would be wonderful if we had this treatment within driving distance and did not have to travel out of state."

In January, The University of Kansas Health System celebrated a groundbreaking for proton therapy on the main hospital campus in Kansas City. The lifesaving and transformative therapy will be offered through The University of Kansas Cancer Center, the region's only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

"Proton therapy is an extension of the precision medicine we practice, which focuses on treating each patient's unique cancer," says Terry Tsue, MD, vice president and physician in chief at the cancer center. "We owe it to our patients to provide them with this advanced technology close to home. It is part of our commitment to treat cancer while preserving patients' lifestyles and quality of life."

"The University of Kansas Cancer Center was the most responsive, accessible, knowledgeable and personable facility we encountered in Roman's cancer fight," says Karen. "We were lucky to find our treatment headquarters here. I credit the outstanding doctors, nurses and health professionals of this health system as one of the main reasons my son is alive today."

Watch the video to learn more about Roman's experience.

Karen Larson: Proton beam therapy was by far one of the most important treatments that he went through. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma of the abdomen. We were willing to go anywhere to get it, but it is so important for people who are going through his type of treatment.

Roman Volkov: Now I'm feeling like fine, and I'm in good hands.

Patient testimonial: As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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