UF joins Orlando Health to battle 'tsunami' of cancer cases
Published: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
UF Health has joined with Orlando Health to establish a new cancer center in Orlando.
The new center, called the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health, aims to provide better personalized treatments for patients all over the state suffering from the disease.
“Florida is experiencing a tsunami in cancer cases,” Dianna Morgan, chairwoman of Orlando Health’s board, said at a televised news conference in Orlando.
Orlando Health is a private, not-for-profit network of community and specialty hospitals in Orlando.
Morgan added that cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death in the state and that Florida has the second-largest cancer burden in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.
It is widely believed that Florida’s demographics — namely the high number of retirees — contribute to the state’s high incidence of cancer.
Morgan explained that the partnership will bring together cancer specialty physicians and researchers, which is a primary advantage of partnering with a large medical research institute such as UF.
“This is a historic day that represents a new beginning for cancer treatment and care across our great state,” Morgan said.
The opening of the new center on Jan. 30 coincides with the end of Orlando Health’s affiliation with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.
According to a joint news release from those institutions, they decided to end the relationship that began in 1991 to achieve their own respective goals: Orlando Health wants to respond to its market needs, and M.D. Anderson wants to partner with more health care organizations nationally.
The two institutions will continue to collaborate on clinical trials, and patients in Orlando will continue to be seen by the same doctors, the release said.
Meanwhile, the new partnership with UF Health “is a full working enterprise … it benefits from the close proximity between Gainesville and Orlando,” Morgan said. “It represents the genesis of a statewide cancer network. It will provide hope for those battling the most difficult types of cancer.”
University of Florida President Bernie Machen said at the news conference: “This partnership will have profound and immediate benefits for patients in our region in the state of Florida. We can’t expect a magic bullet here. But we can create a dream team.”
Dr. David Guzick, the president of UF Health, said the partnership represents the future of collaborations across the state that UF Health has undertaken as part of its growth strategy.
“We live in a relatively small community, but we serve the state,” Guzick said, adding that partnerships of this type among medical institutions are becoming more commonplace as medicine becomes more population-based and preventive.
Cancer patients needing highly specialized treatments such as liver or bone transplants stand to benefit perhaps most from the partnership, since UF Health is equipped to deal with these types of medical challenges, Guzick said.
Already, it’s standard practice for “tumor boards” consisting of a multidisciplinary medical team of specialists to review patients’ cases. Now that review process will expand even more, Guzick added.
“By branching out, we’ve just doubled the minds brought to bear on any given case,” he said.
Even patients living far away from Orlando or Gainesville can benefit from ongoing care via telemedicine, which involves videoconferencing between doctors and patients in remote places, Guzick said.
Patients also will benefit from the center’s emphasis on the genetic testing of tumors that leads to personalized treatments, said Dr. Mark Roh, the president of both the old and new cancer center in Orlando.
A $1.5 million grant from the Dr. Phillips Charities will help cover the costs of genetic testing, which is expensive and not always covered by insurance, Roh added.
Guzick said that combining patient populations also will expand research opportunities. Orlando Health and UF Health combined have about 10,000 new cancer diagnoses each year — which is in the top five in the country, Guzick said. This also means more patients for clinical trials.
Orlando Health and UF Health will have a combined pool of shared revenues but will not merge assets, Guzick said.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or email@example.com.