July/August 2007

Five Catholic Health Initiatives Hospitals Participating in New National Cancer Institute Program

07-07NCIstudy Photo

Representing Catholic Health Initiatives at the launch of the National Cancer Institute’s Community Cancer Centers Program were (from left) Brian Cornblatt, PhD, molecular epidemiologist and manager of oncology research at St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, Md.; Deb Hood, program director for Catholic Health Initiatives; Alan Armer, PhD, vice president of research and development for Catholic Health Initiatives; Debbi Honey, RN, vice president of clinical operations for Catholic Health Initiatives; and Mark Krasna, MD, medical director for oncology at St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, Md., and principal investigator for Catholic Health Initiatives.

The NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP), designed to reduce disparities in cancer care and improve oncology research, will encourage collaboration between community hospitals and medical, surgical and radiation oncologists and will forge close links to NCI research. The initiative will provide thousands more Americans with access to a system of high-quality cancer care and provide care to more patients where they live. The three-year pilot phase of the program will research new and enhanced ways to assist, educate and better treat the needs of underserved populations — including elderly, rural, inner-city and low-income patients — as well as racial and ethnic groups with unusually high cancer rates. This is the first NCI project aimed at extending NCI programs into local communities. “As the nation’s primary cancer research agency, the NCI has historically funded large urban academic and research centers,” said Kevin Lofton, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives. “For the first time ever, in addition to seeking community-based centers, NCI wanted to engage a health system in the project that could promote rapid expansion of improved cancer care throughout the system. Catholic Health Initiatives was selected as a system for participation because of its wide geographical representation of acute care hospitals that already have established mechanisms for quick dissemination of knowledge, best practices for clinical care and quality of care across the system.” The pilot project, expected to lead to a national launch in 2010, will have a heavy emphasis on electronic medical records as a key factor in improving medical care. Each of the pilot sites will study how community hospitals can develop and implement a national database of voluntarily provided electronic medical records accessible to cancer researchers. In all, the NCI selected 10 sites with a total of 16 community hospitals for the project. “More than 170 community hospitals and health systems applied,” said Debbi Honey, vice president of clinical operations for Catholic Health Initiatives. “We are thrilled that Catholic Health Initiatives was selected.” The participating Catholic Health Initiatives hospitals and their cancer centers are:
  • Penrose-St. Francis Health Services (Penrose Cancer Center), Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • St. Joseph Medical Center (St. Joseph Cancer Institute), Towson, Md.
  • A coordinated regional program in Nebraska that includes Good Samaritan Hospital (Good Samaritan Cancer Center), Kearney; Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center (St. Elizabeth Cancer Center), Lincoln; and Saint Francis Medical Center (Saint Francis Cancer Treatment Center), Grand Island.
NCI will provide a total of $15 million during the project. Of these funds, the three Catholic Health Initiatives sites (the Nebraska hospitals are grouped as one site) will receive $1.5 million, which will be matched by monetary and in-kind contributions from Catholic Health Initiatives and the participating hospitals. Mark Krasna, MD, a thoracic oncologist who is medical director for the Cancer Institute at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, will serve as Catholic Health Initiatives’ principal investigator for the study. Deb Hood, former director of the oncology program at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, will coordinate project-related activity within Catholic Health Initiatives. “Service line growth is a strategic initiative for Catholic Health Initiatives, with oncology services identified as a priority growth area,” said John DiCola, senior vice president of strategy and business development for Catholic Health Initiatives. “Our growth strategy also calls us to transform delivery of health care. So, this project advances several of our strategic objectives. Our participation will also help us establish the kind of national visibility and system-wide network needed to strengthen our support for our market-based organizations in their ongoing clinical development, as well as their advancement to new levels of research and development activity.”