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435 Magazine: KC brims with new and improved healthcare techniques and treatments

A new center for advanced breast cancer patients. Robust advancements for stroke, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients. Innovative immunotherapy not only for cancer patients, but for others as well. Kansas City is ripe with new and improved health-care techniques and treatments.

As we start 2017, 435 Magazine offers a glimpse at just a few of the many innovations that keep our city on the cutting edge of health care.

Oral Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, a pioneering treatment being used at the University of Kansas Cancer Center and other area institutions that boosts the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, is also being used in other ways. For example, Children’s Mercy is using oral immunotherapy to help kids with food allergies.

Dr. Chitra Dinakar, a pediatric allergy and immunology specialist, says that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and that 6 million of them, or 1 in 12, are children. The economic burden to their families is $4,600 a year on average.

“Food allergies insinuate into every aspect of your life because of the risk of anaphylaxis and death,” Dr. Dinakar says. Ordinary things like going to the mall or school or even just sitting in the bus next to somebody who offers a candy bar with peanut butter in it can be a scary proposition.

“We had no option for these patients except to feel bad for them and say, ‘I’m sorry, but you really need to strictly avoid the food,’” Dr. Dinakar says, which means reading labels constantly and worrying about the safety precautions of the manufacturers. “That makes life really hard. But now we have a strategy called immunotherapy.”

Basically, oral immunotherapy occurs when the food allergen — a commercially manufactured powder mixed with a harmless food like applesauce — is administered slowly in small but steadily increasing doses until the patient is desensitized to it. Children's Mercy is involved in studies on oral immunotherapy.

Dr. Dinakar says she get at least one email a day from patients in the region who want to participate in the studies.

“I would say Children’s Mercy is on the map of leading institutions,” regarding this area of health care, she says. “It’s really amazing now to have an option that can make their lives better. I’m really glad Children’s Mercy and our food allergy center are able to offer these options.”


Read about what other hospitals are doing to keep our city ripe with new and improved health-care techniques and treatments.

Learn more about the Children's Mercy Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Department.