Cancer patients from more than 30 states and several countries call the Urology Cancer Center (UCC) home for their Prostate cancer care. Nearly 30 percent of these cancer patients will choose to participate in a research trial and 25 percent will enroll on multiple trials during their care at UCC.
What is it about this West Omaha clinic that draws so many patients? “It’s a combination of the many unique treatment options we provide, our reputation for hours spent educating our patients, and lots of hugs and compassion,” said Dr. “Luke” Nordquist. He opened the Urology Cancer Center in 2010 around a foundation of cancer research. “Standard treatment options are often limited or poorly-tolerated, and often times not affordable.” Clinical trials solve many of these problems.
Dr. Luke explained clinical trials provide more treatment alternatives to patients who may otherwise have limited options. Today’s research therapies are often more precise at attacking the cancer, use the immune system, or work on a specific mutation with fewer side effects than standard treatments. Clinical trials also provide an alternative to costly, unaffordable medications. Typically, pharmaceutical companies who sponsor the clinical trials cover the cost of the therapies at no cost to the patient or insurance. Historically, patients had to travel to large academic cancer centers such as Mayo Clinic to receive such cutting edge care, but Dr. Luke is changing that model.
He and his team of nearly 50 at the Urology Cancer Center are running more clinical research trials for prostate cancer than any other cancer center in the world. Last year three first in world treatments for prostate cancer were administered to patients at his center. “Given our reputation for efficiency and quality, pharmaceutical companies often come to our center first to offer new research trials before offering to other cancer centers,” Dr. Luke said. The next step: expanding his research program.
In 2017, Dr. Luke and his team started Precision Cancer Research (PCR). This newly developed company uses their experience, pharmaceutical network, and reputation to develop similar cancer research programs at community cancer centers across the U.S. for all types of cancer. “This is an incredible opportunity to assist other oncologists to be able to provide potentially life-saving treatments to so many of their patients across the country,” he added.
Dr. Luke is one of six boys who grew up a few hours from Omaha in Beresford, South Dakota. He recalled a time when his father, an auto mechanic, helped a surgeon whose car broke down near his hometown and needed to return to Kansas City for surgery. “My dad loaded the family in the car and we drove the doctor home.” The surgeon, Dr. Wallace Graham, turned out to be President Truman’s personal physician, a 1936 Creighton Medical School graduate and a strong influence on Dr. Luke’s career path.
He went on to earn pharmacy and medical degrees from Creighton University, complete his residency at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, and his Oncology Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Working alongside renowned experts in the field of urologic cancers and immune therapies led to his focus for the treatment and research of prostate cancers. There is only one other stand-alone cancer center in the U.S. focused solely on urologic cancers and that is in California.
The success of the UCC team is not built solely on cancer research. Dr. Luke said, “I have been blessed with the absolute best, most caring staff.” Dr. Luke proudly stated that his employees will always put the patient first. “Even if that means driving an hour away to deliver a necessary medication.” His staff work diligently to uncover every resource possible for their patients to help relieve financial burdens. Last year his staff brought in more than $2.5 million in foundation funds to help cover co-pays for his patient’s medications. In 2011, Dr. Luke and his family founded YourTeam Cancer Foundation, which assists cancer patients going through treatment throughout the Omaha area with daily tasks such as yard work or home repairs.
If cancer is Dr. Luke’s first passion, cars come in a close second. Which is why every fall he hosts a Pistons, Pints and Prostates car show at his center. During the show he offers free PSA prostate tests to all attendees. In fact, he offers them free of charge at his clinic to anyone over age 40, at any time. “Prior to PSA testing in the early 1990s, 80 percent of prostate cancer was detected after it had spread and was non-curable. Routine PSA screening has changed that. Now 85 percent of men with prostate cancer can be detected when it is still curable.”
Helping others is at the core of everything Dr. Luke does, and even the conference table in his office is a testament to that. One end shows visible signs of wear and tear from spending hours with patients drawing out and planning their options and treatments to ensure his patients understand everything they’re going through. “In this profession, I really get to know my patients and their families,” he said. “Sure there are tears, but there are also hugs, and that’s my favorite part.”