At Grady Health System
A recent study by the American Cancer Society reported that uninsured Americans are more likely to have advanced forms of the most common cancers by the time they seek treatment. For patients, this disparity can mean decades of lost life.
The correlation between insurance status and stage of cancer is especially noticeable in colon, breast and prostate cancer, which can often be diagnosed early by routine screening, as well as lung and bladder cancer, often caught when patients seek treatment for early symptoms.
In Georgia, one “safety net” for providing access to a high standard of care for both the under-served and those at high risk is the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Health System. Conceived in 2001, it was recently honored by the Georgia Cancer Coalition on its fifth anniversary.
The Center’s $31.3 million facility, located on the 9th and 10th floor of Grady Memorial Hospital, opened in May, 2003. Funding was made possible through the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the state’s tobacco settlement fund.
The Georgia Cancer Center of Excellence (GCCE), located in the heart of Atlanta, is a unique collaboration between Grady, the Coalition, Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia State University and others. Doctors from Emory and Morehouse staff the center.
As part of a teaching hospital, GCCE is focused on patient care, teaching and research. “We help produce the doctors that stay in Georgia to great patients,” says Roland Matthews, MD, Chairman, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Morehouse.
The GCCE sees 1000 new cases of cancer each year, according to Mitchell Berger, MD, Director of Medical Oncology. “We have a unique, comprehensive program that is guidelines-based,” says Dr. Berger. “Our multi-specialty oncology team collaborates to provide state-of-the-art care.”
New initiatives include integrating palliative care in the patient’s experience and forming subspecialty clinics.
In the future, Dr. Berger would like to see GCCE offer improved cancer screenings, increased collaboration with primary care physicians, and advanced clinical trials.
The Center’s 9th floor is devoted to breast cancer and named after the Avon Foundation, which committed $3.3 million. (see related story on Dr. Gabram)
The 10th floor serves patients with other forms of cancer, including rare cancers and people with special challenges or seeking experimental treatment.
A warm and welcoming environment, the facility hosts an array of impressive technology. The Center was the first to install the GE Discovery ST, a specially designed PET/CT system for cancer care, providing physicians with more sensitivity, speed, and resolution. The PET/CT system greatly improves the accuracy of classifying lesions, to 98% confidence. The Discovery ST shortens scan times and allows scanning in 2D and 3D.
The Center’s GE LightSpeed(16) CT system offers advanced oncology applications for lung and colon cancer diagnosis as well as precise radiation therapy treatment planning and simulation tools.
The Diagnostic Mammography Section includes full-field digital, with the GE Senographe system. It permits physicians to electronically see and adjust images, zoom in, magnify and concentrate on different parts of the breast tissue.
Combining diagnostic quality imaging and treatment technologies into one efficient tool makes the Trilogy system valuable for the non-invasive treatment of tumors. Trilogy’s linear accelerator delivers precisely-shaped radiation beams with sub-millimeter accuracy, allowing treatment of tumors close to the heart, spinal cord, lung, rectum or salivary glands. Trilogy can deliver a wide range of external beam radiotherapies, including: intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), sterotactic radiosurgery (SRS), a combination of the two, as well as 3D conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT).
“With technology and treatment advances, we can increase the patient cure rate, reduce side effects and improve patient adherence,” says Jerome Landry, MD, MBA, Chief of Service, Radiation Oncology and Professor, Emory University.
Besides attending to patient’s physical needs, the GCCE also offers support in dealing with psychological, financial and emotional issues. Jennifer Potter, MPH, Public Education and Outreach Specialist, works to provide patients with educational packets, personal care managers, and individual care plans.
In addition to offering cancer treatment and patient care, the Center is home to cancer researchers working in ten biotech labs. Translational research, bridging the gap between research and clinical medicine, is emphasized.
“Shortening the time from breakthrough in the laboratory to impacting a person’s life in the clinic is our goal,” says Bill Todd, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. “We believe the process of acceleration is more likely when basic research laboratories are adjacent to clinical facilities.”
Research includes breast cancer studies; lung cancer trials; a retrospective study of head, neck, esophageal and prostate cancer trials; and a study in prevention currently in rural Southwest Georgia.
“All the labs are full with scientists. They are looking for cures and drug developments as well as better ways to diagnose and manage cancer patients,” says Phillip Lamson, GCCE Executive Director.