Southern Ohio has higher-than-average cancer rates, and experts say there is a clear need for a comprehensive cancer program in the region.
“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.”
To help address this need, UC has signed a memorandum of understanding with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and University Hospital (UH) to establish a joint cancer center that will enhance and coordinate oncology care from childhood to adulthood in southern Ohio and beyond.
This strategic partnership 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 will 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 UH.
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.
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 Arnold Strauss, MD, chair of pediatrics at UC and director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation. “We are good at what we do—but we can do more for our current patients and the entire community by working together.”
James Kingsbury, executive director and senior vice president of University Hospital, 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,” says Kingsbury. “Working together with Cincinnati Children’s and UC will complete the continuum of care.”
One long-term goal is designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), but it will take at least several years to build the joint cancer center to that level. NCI designated cancer centers meet strict guidelines covering long-term, multidisciplinary cancer programs in biomedical research, clinical investigation, training and community involvement.
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 remain at UH’s Barrett Center, UC Physicians’ Medical Arts Building and Precision Radiotherapy at University Pointe. Adult inpatient care will remain at UH.
“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.