U of A Cancer Center

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The University of Arizona is constructing a cancer center in downtown Phoenix where clinical research will be conducted. Dr. M. Peter Lance, the Chief Cancer and Prevention Control Officer, and Marcia Gruber, Vice President of Oncology Services at the cancer center, will discuss the center, patient treatment and research.

Ted Simons: The University of Arizona is building a new comprehensive cancer center at the biomedical campus in downtown Phoenix. Here to tell us more about the center is Dr. M. Peter Lance, the chief cancer and prevention control officer for the center, and Marcia Gruber, vice-president of oncology services. Thanks for joining us. Why a new cancer center? Why downtown Phoenix?

M. Peter Lance: Very good questions and very important. I think it's first of all we should understand the scope of the cancer problem. So over half a million people die from cancer every year in this country. 1,500 each day. And in Arizona alone, over 11,000 people die every year from cancer. And beyond that, the number of new cases of cancer is projected to double between now and the year 2050. So we feel our mission is very much deserved, the people of -- Is very much to serve the people of Arizona, and much of what we do has to do with clinical research, and so we need to be where the largest number of patients is, and obviously that's here in the valley with the service area of 4 million people.

Ted Simons: What will this new cancer center offer? What services? What treatments?

Marcia Gruber: Comprehensive, absolutely. It's -- We'll have lots of -- Many of the state of the art diagnostic testing, we'll have chemotherapy, interventional radiology, radiation treatments, we're going to have supportive care and -- In the form of social work, financial councilors, physical therapists. So we can really treat the whole patient from diagnostic until the point at which they are declared a survivor.

Ted Simons: How would that differ, I know there are a variety of ways that cancer patients can receive treatment in the valley. I know there are research entities as well. How will this differ?

Marcia Gruber: Well, it will certainly be the treatments will be available closer to home. The patients won't have to travel to Tucson. It -- It's that -- The word comprehensive. They will be able to get all the care they need right in one place. And also they will have access to all the clinical trials.

Ted Simons: Indeed the word "comprehensive" is in a title of a comprehensive -- That's only of these quote unquote comprehensive centers.

M. Peter Lance: The national cancer institute, the NCI, has 41 designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country. And which the University of Arizona cancer center is one of the oldest actually. So we think that's very important. And just -- Also I think the sort of style of the way that we provide the care to our patients is in multidisciplinary teams focusing on a particular site. So there's a breast team, a prostate team, and so forth. So that is the Hallmark of the way we provide care.

Ted Simons: More research than treatment, or vice versa? What would that ratio be do you think?

Marcia Gruber: Not --

M. Peter Lance: Potentially everything that we do, whether it's basic -- Clinical trials, epidemiology, where comprehensive and research is involved, and the ideal would be that every patient that we treat would be taking part in some form of trial, that's the goal. But in reality 10 to 20% of the patients that receive that care through a comprehensive cancer center are in one form of a trial or another.

Ted Simons: Interesting. There's an affiliation with St. Joseph hospital. Talk to us about that arrangement, that coordination and how that will build, grow, change over the years.

Marcia Gruber: The affiliation I think is very fortunate for the area because it really brings the strengths of both organizations together. And should magnify the both the compassionate care that St. Joseph is known for, as well as bring in the evidence-based care and the access to clinical trials. The growth is going to occur right now we're building the programs at St. Joseph in the medical office building next door. We are going to hire eight physicians this year, all cancer specialists. We'll hire the next year. So when the new building opens on the Phoenix biomedical campus at seventh and Fillmore, we will move in there with about 35 cancer specialists. Ultimately we will get to somewhere around 70 to 74 cancer specialists.

Ted Simons: We're looking at the building right now. That's at 7th and fillmore on a rapidly growing biomedical campus. Really taken shape.

M. Peter Lance: Yes.

Ted Simons: As far as the affiliation is concerned, real quickly, when this new building is operational, will there be an in-patient, outpatient dynamic between this facility, St. Joe's --

M. Peter lance: The in-patient unit is at St. Joe's, and will stay there. And there will still -- There will also still be some ambulatory clinics that remain on the St. Joe's site, but the majority of the clinics will be on the downtown site.

Ted Simons: Will there be other affiliation as far as coordination and --

Marcia Gruber: Yes, I think Dr. Lance can speak to that.

M. Peter Lance: Through the University of Arizona in Tucson, and the cancer center, we actually already have an affiliation with our colleagues in northern Arizona, Verde Valley, Cottonwood and Sedona, and there's an affiliation in the eastern part of the state which is on the cusp of being signed. So we see ourselves as serving the whole state.

Ted Simons: As an oncologist, what is the greatest need right now in cancer research, in cancer treatment?

Marcia Gruber: Probably access to that care.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Marcia Gruber: And screening, and prevention as well.

Ted Simons: And you mentioned more numbers and so many more people being diagnosed. Is that a case of just folks getting older, more cancer being diagnosed -- Better diagnosis? What's going on there?

Marcia Gruber: Combination. Both an older population, or population that's aging, and age is the number one risk factor for cancer. And then we also have lifestyle changes -- Lifestyles that are not in the best interests of preventing cancer. And then access to screening, so that when people are diagnosed they're diagnosed earlier so the treatments can be more effective.

Ted Simons: Last question, when now is this cancer center set to open?

M. Peter Lance: In the summer of 2015. So about two years from now the building will be opening.

Ted Simons: Very good.

M. Peter Lance: It will be transitioning.

Ted Simons: We'll keep an eye on you. Good to have you both mere. Thank you for joining us.

Dr. M. Peter Lance:Chief Cancer and Prevention Control Officer, University of Arizona; Marcia Gruber:Vice President of Oncology Services, University of Arizona;

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