Throughout the United States, there is probably no bigger name in cancer treatment than the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. And in two years, M.D. Anderson will be serving patients in Arizona.
Officials from M.D. Anderson and Banner Health announced May 6 that the M.D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center will open in late 2011 on the campus of Banner’s Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert. The center, an expansion of M.D. Anderson’s operations from its flagship hospital in Houston, will include a new $90 million, 120,000 square-foot outpatient facility, along with the conversion of 76 beds in the existing hospital to serve oncology patients exclusively.
“M.D. Anderson is the Number 1 cancer center in the world,” said Banner CEO Peter Fine in the Arizona Republic. “This is a development for the people of Arizona, for the people who are touched by cancer in many ways.”
For patients throughout Arizona, the center will offer expanded access to top oncology expertise, as well as the potential to choose, in some instances, cutting-edge and clinical-trial regimens outside the standard of care. According to a news release by the two organizations, M.D. Anderson holds the distinction of participating in more National Cancer Institute-funded studies of new treatments than any other cancer-focused institution in the United States.
“We think with time this is going to be the regional cancer center for the multi-state area,” said William Murphy, chairman of M.D. Anderson Physicians Network, in the East Valley Tribune. “We will concentrate on the four major cancers first–lung, breast, colorectal and prostate–because that’s where the biggest need is.”
Banner is providing the land and paying for the construction of the new center, and will manage administrative and business matters. M.D. Anderson will foot the cost for the center’s operations, and will make clinical management decisions. According to the Republic, most of the 50 physicians who will initially staff the center will be drawn from the two partnering organizations; those hired from outside M.D. Anderson will train for two to four weeks in M.D. Anderson’s protocols.
The center will be M.D. Anderson’s third outpost beyond its base in Texas, following expansions in 1989 to Orlando, Fla., and in 1999 to Madrid, Spain. In 2007, M.D. Anderson launched the Center for Global Oncology to explore further expansions.
“Although our focus is Houston and Texas, we want to extend M.D. Anderson’s mission to other areas,” said Mitch Latinkic, M.D. Anderson’s vice president of global business development, in the Houston Chronicle. “This is our single largest extension opportunity so far.”
Fine said in the Republic that locating in metropolitan Phoenix appealed to M.D. Anderson because of the region’s similarities to Houston and the Phoenix area’s large population of older adults.
“We’ve made great strides in our understanding and ability to effectively treat cancer,” said Thomas W. Burke, M.D. Anderson’s executive vice president and physician-in-chief. “However, with our aging population we must be prepared to help many more people fight this disease. The center is a key collaboration in a fast-growing area where we can truly make a difference with leading-edge therapies and prevention.”
A major step forward for Gilbert
“As a community, we’re extremely excited about this,” said George Pettit, Gilbert’s city manager, in the Republic. “It’s totally supportive of the concept we’ve been advocating.”
In recent years, leaders in Gilbert have formulated a plan to attract businesses in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The new center, said Gilbert Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Langdon in the Republic, “is just verification that we’re on the right path to what’s going to make Gilbert special.”
“It’s going to be the first truly international draw Gilbert really has,” said Mayor Steve Berman in the Tribune. “Banner is a jewel to begin with, and this just takes it to another level. This center will bring in people from all over the world.”
Banner had previously explored the viability of constructing a cancer hospital on the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus, or at its flagship Good Samaritan Medical Center nearby. But building downtown, Fine said in the Republic, could cost as much as $250 million, which made the Gateway Medical Center complex much more attractive. It sits on 60 acres of land that Banner already owns, and the cancer center’s construction will not require teardown of any existing structures.
Benefits from a crowded field
The decision to locate the new center in Gilbert leaves open the potential for a different cancer-treatment facility to be built in downtown Phoenix. The University of Arizona, which had previously discussed with Banner options for building a hospital on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, is continuing independent development of plans for a major outpatient cancer clinic in Phoenix as an expansion of its Arizona Cancer Center. The Arizona Cancer Center is, like M.D. Anderson, one of 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers, an elite designation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Thomas Brown, chief operating officer of the Arizona Cancer Center, suggested that the arrival of M.D. Anderson would not derail UA’s planning.
“In the academic cancer world, we need as many hands on deck as possible to fight cancer,” Brown said in the Republic.
“There is no doubt there will be some competition,” said Rafael Fonseca, deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, and head of its Arizona operations, in the Republic. (Mayo is another of the 40 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.) “I’d like to think that the overall level of service will go up when M.D. Anderson comes here,” Dr. Fonseca added.
Suzanne Pfister, vice president of health affairs for St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, agreed, saying that St. Joseph’s is not worried about care providers being squeezed out of the metropolitan Phoenix region.
“This is a big enough market,” she said. “Even though we are competitors, we are still very collaborative.”
For more information:
“Plans for new Gilbert center beef up cancer competition,” Arizona Republic, 05/10/2009
“Officials jazzed about Banner cancer center deal,” Arizona Republic, 05/09/2009
“Gilbert to get renowned hospital for cancer care,” Arizona Republic, 05/06/2009
Banner Health news release, 05/06/2009
“M.D. Anderson to open new facility in Arizona,” Houston Chronicle, 05/06/2009