CINCINNATI—Three of Cincinnati’s largest cancer care providers and research institutions have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint cancer center to enhance and coordinate oncology care from childhood to adulthood in southern Ohio and beyond.
This strategic partnership among Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and University Hospital also will provide the scientific and intellectual resources to enable the three institutions to increase the internationally significant research performed.
A total of up to $60 million in seed money has been committed during the next five years by the founding institutions to move the project forward. Cincinnati Children’s has agreed to provide $30 million toward the center, matching a combined $20 million commitment from UC’s Academic Health Center and College of Medicine and $10 million from University Hospital. In addition, UC is committed to raising as much as $200 million for the joint cancer center.
“Cancer is a particular problem in southern Ohio, where cancer rates per county are high across all racial groups,” explains David Stern, MD, dean of UC’s College of Medicine. “Cancer of the bladder, esophagus, pancreas, liver and ovary are on the rise in our region—despite greater awareness of the diseases and earlier access to medical care in Ohio.”
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 4.5 million Ohioans are living with cancer, and the state is ranked among the top 25 percent for cancer deaths. For every 100,000 Ohioans diagnosed with cancer, 210 will die in the year 2007—a rate that is significantly higher than the national average.
The joint cancer center effort is being spearheaded by Stern; James Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Cincinnati Children’s; Arnold Strauss, MD, chair of pediatrics at UC and director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation; and James Kingsbury, executive director and senior vice president of University Hospital.
“By working collaboratively, our three institutions represent an exponential force in the fight to beat cancer. The power of one is greatly surpassed by this strategic triad of expertise, high-quality care and world-class research,” said UC President Nancy Zimpher.
The initial funds will provide the needed jump-start to establish a world-class integrated adult and pediatric cancer center. The money will be used to build and upgrade facilities and new clinical programs, attract leading physicians and scientists and speed research to improve diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. A formal name has not yet been determined.
“Our vision is to establish a joint cancer center that integrates the best of all our institutions and allows us to coordinate cancer care across all age groups and strengthen our recruitment of more top-notch clinicians and outstanding cancer researchers to Cincinnati,” says Strauss. “We are good at what we do—but we can do more for our current patients and the entire community by working together.”
Kingsbury adds that a major strength of a joint cancer program is the resulting specialized, multidisciplinary care.
“Our cancer specialists have dedicated groups that meet weekly to discuss individual patient cases and map out the best treatment plan possible for that person,” Kingsbury explains. “Working together with Cincinnati Children’s and UC will complete the continuum of care.”
Survival rates of pediatric cancer patients are improving, with more children surviving into adulthood. The joint cancer center will enhance the ability to better care for these young patients as they become adults, Anderson notes.
“With a closer working relationship between pediatric and adult oncologists, we can improve the care not only to our youngest patients as they become our older patients, but to all our patients,” he says. “This will indeed take our program to the next level.”
The three institutions already have well-established relationships, Anderson notes. Physicians at Cincinnati Children’s comprise the pediatrics department of the UC College of Medicine and University Hospital is UC’s primary teaching facility. UC Physicians, the university’s 500-member faculty group practice, provides medical care to patients at University Hospital. There are also numerous joint programs among the three institutions.
“One long-term goal is designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, but it will take at least several years to build our joint program to that level,” Strauss says. “These designated cancer centers meet strict guidelines covering long-term, multidisciplinary cancer programs in biomedical research, clinical investigation, training and community involvement.
Strauss, who came to Cincinnati earlier this year, previously served as chair of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University when its cancer center received the NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation.
While the joint cancer program continues seeking additional funding for facility and program expansions, all pediatric cancer care will continue to be administered at current facilities operated by Cincinnati Children’s. Adult outpatient care will continue at University Hospital’s Barrett Center, UC Physicians’ Medical Arts Building and Precision Radiotherapy at the University Pointe campus in West Chester. Adult inpatient care will remain at University Hospital.
“However, over time it’s likely that new facilities will be designed and constructed to include shared clinical activities—especially in programs that involve continued monitoring of childhood cancer survivors as they mature into adulthood and beyond,” Kingsbury says.
The new collaboration is expected to enhance research efforts at UC and Cincinnati Children’s, bringing together not only cancer-focused physicians and scientists from the participating institutions, but also the advanced tools and new technologies that make possible the internationally recognized research performed at both institutions.
“Combining our resources will allow us to work more efficiently and effectively as one coordinated enterprise,” adds Strauss. “That will ultimately translate to more research discoveries and better patient care.”
Stern says a joint cancer program, combining both pediatric and adult cancer specialists, will strengthen existing interdisciplinary cancer research groups. These teams bring clinicians and basic scientists together to carve out common “need” themes that, if investigated jointly, may improve overall cancer care.
Three years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new roadmap to guide the future of American translational medical research. The idea is to improve the process of moving research concepts beyond the lab bench and into the clinic, so discoveries can more quickly begin improving the lives of cancer patients.
“Today’s research model demands that even the most basic scientists be clinically oriented,” Stern explains. “Most major research organizations—including the NIH and National Cancer Institute—require researchers to address the human implications of a basic or translational research project from its very beginning.”
The joint cancer center will include 142 College of Medicine faculty members at UC and Cincinnati Children’s. These individuals currently hold about $32 million in cancer-related grants. Researchers and clinician-scientists will be organized into four scientific programs: hormonal malignancies, molecular oncology, pediatric oncology and cancer susceptibility.
“This type of collaboration is critical if we want to become a premier national cancer research institution,” says Stern. “We need to bolster our ability to perform translational research and provide a clinical outlet for our basic researchers. No investigator has experience in all areas. By interacting with our clinical colleagues, we can bring together individual expertise in innovative ways so we can develop better approaches to cancer treatment.”
To reinforce the collaborative nature of the joint cancer center, it will be led by a board of seven individuals representing the founding organizations. In addition to Anderson, Kingsbury, Stern and Strauss, the board will include Jane Henney, MD, senior vice president and provost for health affairs at UC’s Academic Health Center, and David Glass, MD, associate director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation. The seventh member will be the joint cancer center’s director, who has not yet been named. A community board also will be named in the near future.