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Cancer Center’s next phase: To be hub, not only for treatment, but research, education and outreach

After more than a year and a half of serving as the home of outpatient cancer services, the Upstate Cancer Center is poised to make great strides in strengthening the integration of cancer care, research, education and outreach, all aimed at improving outcomes for cancer patients.

Taking the Upstate Cancer Center into the next phase is the task of Jeffrey Bogart, MD, chair of radiation oncology, who was named as the interim director of the cancer center earlier this year. This newly created position will oversee all cancer care and cancer related research at Upstate.

“We have before us the opportunity to create a stronger alignment between the Upstate Cancer Center and the rest of the institution in a way that strengthens our cancer care, accelerates scientific discovery, bolsters our academic programs and extends our community outreach and education efforts far beyond our campus,” Bogart said.

The institution has a long history of providing collaborative multidisciplinary care with integrated cancer clinics dating back to the 1990s. Bogart said the depth and breadth of subspecialty expertise at Upstate is unmatched in the region, and unique in the number of fellowship-trained oncologists. The new structure of the Cancer Center will facilitate a team-based approach organized around specific tumor sites, including breast cancer, lung cancer, genitourinary malignancies, head and neck cancer, hepatobiliary cancer, and neurologic cancers among others. Upstate also houses the only children’s cancer treatment facility in the region.

”Most important is that the reorganization of the Cancer Center structure allows us to maintain our ‘Patient-first’ focus that has been the cornerstone of our approach at Upstate,” Bogart noted.

Helping Bogart in that end will be the newly created Cancer Center Leadership Committee (CCLC) that includes broad representation from campus, including department chairs, nursing, research and hospital leadership. Serving as vice chair of the committee is Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Urology.  Other key appointments to Cancer Center leadership and their areas of responsibility include Leszek Kotula, MD, PhD, associate professor of urology and biochemistry and molecular biology, for Basic and Translational Research; Ajeet Gajra, MD, associate professor of medicine, for Clinical Affairs; Stephen Graziano, MD, professor of medicine, for Clinical Research; and Leslie Kohman, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Surgery, for Community Outreach.

Bogart said the opportunity to strengthen the integration of the Upstate Cancer Center with Upstate’s clinical, academic and research missions will put the Upstate Cancer Center in the best position to grow and respond to the changing market and health care reform dynamics. It will also set in motion Upstate’s long-term strategy of earning a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation for the Upstate Cancer Center.

NCI-designated Cancer Centers are recognized for their scientific leadership, resources and the depth and breadth of their research in basic, clinical and population science.

“This is an important designation that reflects on an institution’s integrated approach to cancer care,” Bogart said.

A hallmark of NCI-designated Cancer Centers is the ability of faculty, funded by NCI grants, to develop and translate scientific knowledge into discoveries for new treatments, providing benefit to cancer patients.

Upstate has a record of success with faculty who are funded by NCI grants, among them Michael Cosgrove, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Bruce Knutson, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Leszek Kotula, MD, PhD, associate professor of urology and biochemistry and molecular biology; Juntao Luo, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology; Golam Mohi, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and Christopher Turner, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology.

In addition to cancer-related research, Upstate plays a prominent role in the community when it comes to outreach and education. The successful She Matters program aims to increase the rates of mammography screening in low-income underserved women, with a specific focus on African American women. Upstate also plays a leading role in colon cancer outreach, partnering with Kinney Drugs on home-screening initiative. Upstate is participating in the American Cancer Society’s 80 by 2018 initiative to get 80 percent of the local community screened for colon cancer in the next two years. Upstate is also a leading provider of free smoking-cessation classes through HealthLink programming.

Bogart said the combination of fellowship-trained clinicians and some of the latest in cancer fighting technology, enables the Upstate Cancer Center to provide outstanding care. Such care has been recognized nationally by various organizations, including the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.

The Upstate Cancer Center, which opened in the summer of 2014, brings much of Upstate’s ambulatory cancer care under one roof with some of the newest technology available in the fight against cancer, such as the Vero SBRT (Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy System) for advanced treatment of lung, liver, panaceas and many other cancers, and TrueBeam with RapidArc, an advanced radiotherapy option that lessens treatment time, improving patient convenience. Add these new technologies to Upstate’s existing arsenal of cancer-fighting technology —including Tomotherapy and Gamma Knife Perfexion—and the Cancer Center provides the widest breadth of therapy options in the region.

“We have outstanding research faculty, outstanding clinicians and some of the best cancer-fighting technology around and spirited community outreach efforts, all working to win the war against cancer for our patients,” Bogart said. “When we align all that Upstate does in the field of cancer care, we intensify our institutional might in battling this disease.”

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