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bioscience

Arizona Biomedical Corridor advances

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and the City Council today approved the Phoenix Industrial Development Authority to issue up to $180 million in revenue bonds to finance Mayo Clinic’s new proton beam radiation therapy center.

The Council also approved a two-year extension of its agreement with ASU and Mayo Clinic to continue collaborative planning efforts to develop the Arizona Biomedical Corridor in northeast Phoenix.

The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, the corridor’s anchor, will be the only center in the Southwest to provide proton beam radiation, a technology that precisely delivers radiation to a tumor while protecting surrounding healthy tissue and organs. The 165,000-square-foot underground facility will help Mayo medical teams treat about 2,000 patients, including children, each year beginning in spring 2016.

“Mayo Clinic’s newly consolidated cancer center is exciting for our community because it helps to deliver top-notch care to our residents and contributes to the innovation-based economy we need,” said Stanton.

“I am thrilled we are taking the next step in our partnership with ASU and Mayo Clinic on the Biomedical Corridor in District 2,” said Vice Mayor Jim Waring. “This project will be a great economic driver for the city and the state, and only enhance Phoenix’s image as an international destination for medical care.”

“Arizona cancer patients will no longer have to travel far to receive proton beam therapy,” said Wyatt Decker, M.D., chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “Proton beam therapy, with fewer side effects and greater precision, is particularly beneficial for children and younger patients. We’re pleased to be offering this important treatment soon in the fight against cancer, right here in our community.”

Stanton also announced that the Arizona State Land Department has accepted the application by KUD International, a private developer, to play a key role in developing biomedical and advanced technology research on the site. As a result, the department plans to auction 225 acres of land within the proposed corridor by the end of this year.

Medical Technology - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

Medical Technology: Increasing Longevity, Healthcare Costs

Advances in technology are great, experts agree, but costs need to mimic the rest of the economy.

As Arizona enters its second century and health care costs soar, we can’t help but ask: Has the technology that helps us live longer become too costly? Are we living too long? And who will pay for the high-tech advances that keep us going?

Leading healthcare experts in the Valley say our lifespan has increased, but not as much as most people think, they say. Though they agree that residents may have to work longer, most believe that is because of problems with the economy overall, not from the increasing cost of healthcare.

Technology has improved, they say, but the changes will soon get more amazing. Some of this will be costly, but improved technology can also make healthcare more efficient and less expensive in the long run.

And none of these experts believe Arizona residents live too long.

Medical Technology - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012“I suspect that people used to say that humans were living too long back when people lived 50 years or 60 years,” said Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, chief medical officer and senior vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “People may have the instinct to want to live longer, but what they really want is to live longer and healthier.”

Dr. Ed Staren, president and chief executive officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear, agrees.

“I certainly don’t think people live too long,” says Dr. Ed Staren, president and chief executive officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear. “I greatly value the chance to learn from those more experienced than we are. The purpose of medicine runs parallel to the right of an individual to a healthy life, to empower them to pursue life to the best of their abilities.”

The mission statement for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Jhaveri notes, “is to improve the quality of life for all Arizonans, not just our customers.”

Healthcare and its new technology are not the major factors in a long life, says Dr. John Hensing, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Banner Health. Genetics, diet and nutrition and exercise are what count the most, he says.

“Do you smoke? Do you get regular exercise? What do you eat? Do you take care of yourself?” Dr. Hensing asks. “Those factors contribute much more to longevity. That being said, of course, there are certain people alive today because of improvements made in medical technology. These are people who 100 years ago would not have survived. But technology is only a modest factor in longevity.”

We do, of course, live longer and longer, but in general our lifespan has increased fairly slowly. According to the U.S. Census, the average life expectancy for men and women combined in the United States was 78.3 years in 2010; it was 76.8 years in 2000.

So how will we pay for the health care that gives us extra years and stronger bodies?

“The new technology allows us to be more efficient in the cost of delivering care,” says Dr. Greg Mayer, senior vice president of the Hospice of the Valley.

Those cost-saving methods can include electronic transmission of medical records; video visits to the doctor for routine illnesses; or even robotic surgery with the robot controlled by a doctor who is hundreds or thousands of miles away from the operating room.

“Many areas of technology are very high in cost, and we’re all aware that the increases in these costs cannot be sustained in future,” Dr. Mayer says. “If we aren’t smarter and more efficient in our use of health care, it won’t be helpful. It will just be fancier care.”

In the drive to cut expenses, he says, patients will probably find that less complicated medical care will be delivered by highly qualified middle level personnel like nurse practitioners, rather than doctors. “There have to be changes because we can’t sustain the current system financially. There aren’t even enough physicians to meet all the needs,” Dr. Mayer says.

Of course, medical technology has brought on major changes in how serious diseases are treated, the doctors say. Cancer is a prime example.

When Dr. Staren of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America started practicing in the 1980s, the bulk of cancer diagnoses were based on just looking at the size and shape of a tumor or on what could be seen by analyzing cells under a microscope. Treatment was limited to drugs and chemotherapy that had not changed much in 25 years.

Now, doctors have electronic equipment to look at cancers on the molecular level and differentiate among individual tumors and types of cancer. Targeted therapies can use drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumor growth. These targeted therapies may be more potent than chemotherapy and radiotherapy and less harmful to normal cells.

“Now, cancer is being treated as a chronic disease, much like diabetes,” Dr. Staren says.  “There have been true paradigm shifts in treatment.”

It’s possible to treat tumors with minimal access to the body by delivering drugs through small pinholes in the abdomen, chest or brain. “This is process innovation that can result in lower costs and reimbursement,” Dr. Staren says.

“Right now, we’re going through transformation of our health care and how it’s paid for,” Dr. Hensing says. “We’re in a period of non-sustainable growth of costs. That has to change. The growth of costs must flatten out to a cost trend that looks like the rest of the U.S. economy – whether health care is paid for by employers or the government or both. We need a better way to deliver services, and they will be delivered in a more economical way. It will take the better part of a decade to do it.”

“There is unquestionably a much better prospect for better quality and Medical Technology - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012quantity of life due to technology,” said Dr. Rafael Fonseca, deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. “But escalating costs remain a challenge.”

Costs are higher in the United States than around the world, he says, but that’s partly because the U.S. carries most of the cost of research and development. He sees room for containment of costs. “The notion that everything has to be managed by doctors must change,” Fonseca says. “Nurses can get a history and do a medical exam;. There can be electronic consultation. Nurses can deal with day-to-day problems with specialists handling individual cases.”

Here are the five things that Valley experts say will shape health care in Arizona as the state enters its second century:

Medical Technology

More improvements, including less invasive surgery, targeted drugs and therapies.

Cost containment

More use of nurses and trained technicians to give care.

Medical education

Training for technicians and nurses so they can administer more care.

Lifestyle education

Promotion of better nutrition and more exercise.

Growth of facilities

New clinics and hospitals in Arizona attracting patients from around the world.

Arizona Business Magazine January/February 2012

Cancer research and treatment are coming of age in Arizona

Cancer Research And Treatment Are Coming Of Age In Arizona

The Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson is one of two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Arizona. Photo: The Arizona Health Sciences Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson

Cancer Conquerors:

There was a time when a diagnosis of cancer almost always meant death. But advances in cancer research and treatment have greatly improved cancer patients’ chances of survival. Throughout the Valley and Arizona, cancer centers touting new technologies and treatments are helping the state become one of the nation’s leaders in the fight against the disease.

“With these various models … it is raising the quality of cancer treatment for everybody in the Valley (and state)” says Dr. Michael Etzl Jr., director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and co-director of the neuro-oncology program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Comprehensive Care Centers
Since 1976, the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson has been a pioneer in the fight against cancer. Designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as one of just two Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Arizona, the facility serves the entire state.

“Because of our Comprehensive Cancer Center status, our emphasis on research and our role as part of an academic medical center, we can offer our patients the opportunity to be part of clinical trials, to be treated with newly developed drugs specifically for their particular disease,” says Dr. David S. Alberts, director of the Arizona Cancer Center.

The only other NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Arizona is the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Scottsdale.

“Mayo’s unique approach to health care is a team approach, with many health care providers working to provide comprehensive diagnosis and treatment in more than 65 adult medical and surgical specialties,” says Dr. Rafael Fonseca, deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and site director in Arizona.

Clinical Trials and Research
Research and clinical trials are the critical basis for innovations in cancer treatment. Arizona is able to position itself as a leader in cancer treatment because of the research and clinical trials its hospitals and centers host.

“It is a documented fact that the best cancer care can only occur at centers where clinical trials are being conducted,” Fonseca says.

The Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson has an annual research budget of more than $78 million, operates 60 research labs and enrolls more than 1,700 participants in clinical trials each year.

In the Valley, Scottsdale Healthcare also offers cancer patients cutting edge clinical trials by being a clinical research site for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). Through a strategic alliance between Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen, eligible patients can take part in phase I or phase II studies at TGen’s Clinical Research Services clinic, located within the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center.

Since 2005, more than 60 phase I (first-in-human) cancer trials have been conducted through TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare. Approximately 250-300 new patients participate in other phase I trials every year through the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center.

In a field vastly different from that of adult cancer, Phoenix Children’s is the only hospital in the state to offer pediatric phase I, phase II and phase III trials.

“In pediatric oncology, without the clinical research component of it you really don’t provide cutting-edge treatment,” Etzl says.

Approximately 60 to 70 percent of cancer patients at Phoenix Children’s are on clinical trials.

Pioneering Programs
Along with its research and clinical trials, Phoenix Children’s Hospital prides itself on having a “strong, family-centered, comprehensive program” for young cancer patients, Etzl says.

One of the hospital’s numerous programs includes Child Life, which works to ease a child’s pain and worry about being in a hospital. Through the program, procedures are explained to children as part of an overall effort to make a young cancer patient’s life as normal as possible.

The cancer center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Downtown Phoenix hosts programs ranging from nutritional support to quality-of-life care that focus on a blend of medical, holistic and emotional support systems.

Meanwhile, an initiative at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center that is open to all cancer patients — regardless of where they’re receiving treatment — is the cancer care coordinator program. It’s comprised of experienced oncology nurses who act as personal advocates for cancer patients by answering questions, clarifying procedures and more.

Collaboration and Partnerships
Dr. Mark A. Slater, vice president of research for Scottsdale Healthcare and the Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, says that with so much cancer treatment and research taking place in the Valley and state, it’s important to “work together to fight cancer and not duplicate each other (and) instead complement each other.”

The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center continues to expand its alliance with TGen. The center recently announced it will be one of three clinical research sites in the U.S. to participate in a three-year investigation into new ways to treat pancreatic cancer.

Since 2002, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and Phoenix Children’s have worked together on the Valley’s first pediatric blood-and-marrow transplant program.

“Prior to 2002, if a (Phoenix Children’s) patient needed a transplant, the patient and his or her family had to leave the Phoenix area, often for months at a time, to seek care,” Fonseca of Mayo says.

Today, the two institutions have successfully forged a strong relationship that helps patients young and old. “The program has grown exponentially,” Fonseca says. “This year we will perform approximately 120 transplants.”

The Future
As the next phase of cancer care makes its way to the state, one new option for patients is the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear, which opened in December 2008. Cancer Treatment Centers of America has other locations in Chicago, Philadelphia and Tulsa, Okla.

The center in Phoenix is the first in the country to be 100-percent digital, with a fully electronic health record system designed specifically to support Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s unique model of care.

“The (electronic health record system) is one part of our comprehensive IT platforms designed to maximize patient care. Cancer patients will benefit from greater efficiency created by real-time access to patient data and more,” says David Veillette, president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center.

Another option coming online in a few years will be the M.D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center on the campus of Banner Gateway Medical Center in the East Valley. The recently announced collaboration between the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is Banner’s largest ever, with a scheduled opening of 2011.

“Cancer treatment will be needed more, naturally, as a result of more people moving into the Valley and the state,” says Bill Byron, a spokesperson for Banner Health. “The M. D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center will be a prominent institution that many will choose.”

Along with new technology, research and treatments, each cancer center in the state offers patients perhaps the most potent medicine of all — hope.

“We foresee a future where cancer will be like infectious diseases — most of the time curable,” Fonseca says.

www.azcc.arizona.edu | www.mayoclinic.org/scottsdale | www.cancercenter.com | www.phoenixchildrens.com | www.stjosephs-phx.org | www.shc.org | www.mdanderson.org | www.bannerhealth.com