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New cancer centers provide lifesaving treatments
Cancer care has turned into a team approach


October 2015

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.6 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2015. Nearly 600,000 Americans — more than 11,500 in Wisconsin alone — are expected to die from cancer this year, making it the second most common cause of death in the U.S.

"This is what you expect from population growth and an aging demographic," stresses Dr. Michael Thompson, medical director of the early phase cancer research program at the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.

With increasing numbers like this, it’s important for cancer patients of all ages to have access to lifesaving treatments.

"We’ve turned cancer from what was commonly a quickly life-threatening diagnosis for many people into a chronic and manageable illness, but it means that people need care," adds Thompson.

The UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care in Pewaukee opened its doors in early August. The $70 million facility, just north of I-94 on Highway 164, was built by ProHealth Care, which contracted with UW Health to oversee medical care at the new center.

"It will be a joint venture for ongoing operations, with the hope that there are things that the university can bring to the program that will be of added value for patients in the Waukesha County area," says Dr. Daniel Mulkerin, medical director at the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care in Pewaukee and the UW Carbone Cancer Center in Madison.

Opening this fall is the nearly $150 million, eight-story Froedert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Center for Advanced Care in Wauwatosa. This new facility will provide speciality care for cardiac, transplant and/or surgical/interventional cases, in which the top two floors will be inpatient units for cancer patients. This facility is in addition to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Clinical Cancer Center.

"I think what’s happening in the Milwaukee market is reflective of what’s happening around the country with cancer care. It is requiring different facilities to house the technology," says Mulkerin.

According to health experts, cancer treatment today is much more of a team discipline, which requires a different type of facility. Many see new cancer centers as a modernized approach to care, replacing single clinics of the past.

"People tend to choose facilities that are new and have cutting edge technology," says Thompson. "They want to have access to clinical trials and things like immunotheraphy and precision, personalized cancer care."

Doctors also agree that cancer patients don’t want to travel too far for treatment, meaning more choices, closer to home, produces better outcomes.

Viewray delivers targeted radiation

It’s medical multi-tasking that gives cancer patients a better chance of a better outcome. Viewray enables doctors to deliver radiation more accurately to targeted areas of the body while a patient is undergoing an MRI.

"The technology is very, very new," says Dr. Michael Bassetti, assistant professor of human oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Public Health and Medicine, which was only the second institution in the world to use the device.

Viewray is MRI-guided radiation therapy that gives doctors more detailed pictures of the location of tumors in soft tissue areas that show active movement during the breathing cycle. The imaging facilitates delivering radiation only when the tumor is in the exact targeted location.

"I’ve used this a lot for pancreatic cancer patients, for patients with liver metastases, lung cancer patients and breast cancer patients," Bassetti says.

"There were a number of liver patients I wouldn’t have treated otherwise. For those patients, it has made a difference in that they were able to get a treatment they otherwise wouldn’t have."

The technology allows flexibility in short- and long-term radiation therapy. Treatments can be revised while a patient is still on the table during a daily session or over a several week course of therapy.

— Mark Concannon


This story ran in the October 2015 issue of: