U of A Cancer Center

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The University of Arizona Cancer Center opened recently at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. The new center will conduct research and clinical trials to help find cures to cancer. Dr. Peter Lance, interim deputy director of the center, will tell us more.

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TED SIMONS: The University of Arizona cancer center opened recently at St. Joseph's hospital and medical center in downtown Phoenix. Dr. Peter Lance joins us now. He is the interim deputy director of this new cancer facility. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."

DR. PETER LANCE: Thank you very much for having me.

TED SIMONS: How does this differ from the cancer center in Tucson?


DR. PETER LANCE: It's an extension of the cancer center in Tucson. We like to call it one cancer center, two locations. For a long time we have been very keen to expand so that we can offer what we think we bring to the table to the largest number of patients within our state.

TED SIMONS: Expansion, does that mean different things emphasized here as opposed to Tucson?

DR. PETER LANCE: No, it means we're expanding our programs in Tucson with particular attention to accruing, recruiting more patients to our clinical trials.

TED SIMONS: It's a national cancer institute designated center. What does that mean?

DR. PETER LANCE: The national cancer institute, which is the cancer arm of the national institutes of health, has 41 of what they call comprehensive cancer centers around the country. So the U of A cancer center is the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center that is actually owned and has its home here in Arizona.

TED SIMONS: Doesn't mao share its campuses?


DR. PETER LANCE: Right, but the headquarters is in Rochester.

TED SIMONS: As far as accreditation, there are accreditation concerns going on as we speak regarding the U of A medical center. How will those impact the cancer center?


DR. PETER LANCE: They won't. The cancer center grant that pays for this designation is renewed every five years. That goes on the cycle that is designed and designated by the NCI.

TED SIMONS: So the liaison committee does not necessarily have a problem with the cancer center or -- is the cancer center under the umbrella of their concerns?


DR. PETER LANCE: I'm not privy to what the LCME is concerned about but the comprehensive cancer center is a separate consideration.

TED SIMONS: I think they are concerned about governance and who has enough -- will the Phoenix facilities have the same power that the Tucson facilities have and the needed power to do good work?
DR. PETER LANCE: Absolutely. Again, we're one cancer center in two locations. So we have one management structure as it were. For our operations in Phoenix we're affiliated with dig city St. Joseph's.
TED SIMONS: It seems like there's a crowded field of cancer centers here in the valley. What need is filled?

DR. PETER LANCE: The need that is filled is number one, we think we compete with the best. In the long run patients benefit from competition. If you compare what we're doing here with other comparable size cities around the country, in fact I don't think we are over-endowed with centers of this kind. I should say we also collaborate -- the moment actually submitting a very large grant which has participation from Mayo Clinic, from ASU, from NAU, and from banner M.D. Anderson. We do work together for our research.

TED SIMONS: So there's a collaboration out there as opposed to competition?


DR. PETER LANCE: Absolutely, yes. Collaboration when it comes to team science is the name of the game.

TED SIMONS: I know we're looking at this story, someone said there were big holes in cancer care that the center could fill.


DR. PETER LANCE: I don't think that I was specifically saying that, but I think that we bring our pallets across the waterfront trials to people of Phoenix. I think we very much will be offering things not here at the moment.

TED SIMONS: The key is the clinical trials with patients, correct?


DR. PETER LANCE: Correct.

TED SIMONS: Talk to us about those.


DR. PETER LANCE: The way that we improve, obviously we're all here to prolong the lives and make the lives better of all of our patients and ourselves when we're patients. The way we advance the science and get it into the clinic is by doing clinical trials. That's why the coin of the realm for an NCI cancer center is the clinical trial portfolio. We find more and more that's what patients are looking for. They go to the website and see what trials we have to offer.

TED SIMONS: As far as what patients are looking for I know genetics and immunotherapy are hot right now. Talk about those.


DR. PETER LANCE: People are familiar with chemotherapy that has been around for a long time and has brought amazing advances but what we're more and more aware of is we need new approaches basically immunotherapy is all about bringing to bear the patient's own immune system to fight the specific tumor that is in that patient. So this is potentially a major leap forward as we begin to get into immunotherapy.

TED SIMONS: And great strides are being made in that, aren't they?

DR. PETER LANCE: They are being made. You don't want to oversell or under-sell. There have been tremendous advances for instance in melanoma. We have here world leaders in melanoma research, in kidney cancer, so we're very much involved in getting the other types of tumor up to speed as it were.

TED SIMONS: As far as opening the center in downtown Phoenix, why is that important?

DR. PETER LANCE: We think that it's important to be here in the middle of this wonderful burgeoning city where we can be accessible to the largest number of patients.

TED SIMONS: As far as the medical staff, you begin seeing patients when?


DR. PETER LANCE: We have been seeing patients on the St. Joseph's campus since 2013. We opened our doors here with full court press August 13 of this year. In fact that very first day there were 35 patients that received their chemotherapy infusions in the new building.

TED SIMONS: That's a good point. Last question, the collaboration with St. Jo's, how does that work?


DR. PETER LANCE: It's a 50/50. We're very proud to be part of such a wonderful organization as dignity and St. Joseph's has been serving people here in the valley for over 100 years. We think this couldn't be a better partner.

TED SIMONS: St. Joe's takes more medical testing?


DR. PETER LANCE: St. Joseph's is essentially responsible for clinical activity and we bring the research to the table and work on a daily basis of cooperation.

TED SIMONS: Well very good, thank you for joining us we appreciate having you here.


DR. PETER LANCE: Appreciate you having me. Thank you very much.

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Dr. Peter Lance: interim deputy director of the The University of Arizona Cancer Center

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