Alliance aids patients
By KALEY CONNER
Representatives with the University of Kansas Cancer Center were in Hays on Thursday touting the benefits of the center's relationship with Hays Medical Center and other local hospitals through the Midwest Cancer Alliance.
The Midwest Cancer Alliance links KU Cancer Center in Kansas City, Kan., to 19 other hospitals throughout the state, including facilities in Hays, Goodland and Oberlin. The partnership enables hospitals to offer more cutting-edge cancer treatments and specialty consults close to home, rather than sending so many patients to Kansas City or another large facility, said Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center.
"It's being able to bring that latest, evidence-based care directly to the bedside no matter where you are in the state of Kansas," Jensen said. "That's what the Midwest Cancer Alliance is about."
KU Med offers a variety of services -- including Telemedicine consults with patients and educational courses -- depending on the hospital's needs. Higher level partners, including HaysMed, are able to offer new clinical trials for patients.
Advancements in cancer treatment have upped the five-year survival rate to 67 percent, Jensen said, noting there still is work to be done.
"To somebody like myself, that says a third of the patients that walk in the door, I don't have answers for them," he said. "And clinical research is basically the way that we improve that figure over the years, and that has to continue."
HaysMed, a founding member of MCA in 2007, was offering four clinical trials from KU Med as of this summer. One of those trials was developed with the help of Dr. Anne O'Dea, a medical oncologist specializing in breast care at HaysMed.
The Telemedicine consults also are a valuable service -- oncologists in Kansas City can provide second opinions to cancer patients without the patient having to travel.
"While cancer is a common enemy, each institution approaches things a little bit differently, and you can't design a program that fits everybody," Jensen said of letting each hospital select the services they need. "They select the things that will have the most value to their patient population."
MCA director Dr. Gary Doolittle also long has had an outreach clinic in Hays.
The MCA is hoping to continue expanding its offerings to include more remote genetic testing and counseling, which can help patients identify a genetic pre-disposition to some forms of cancer. Other funding priorities include establishment of a post-treatment care program for survivors and expanding biospecimen banking at member sites to further cancer research.