Some community hospitals in our region, including Abington, Bryn Mawr and Paoli, have devoted considerable resources to delivering cancer care, and do a very good job. Other facilities, like Hahnemann, have developed reputations for excellence in one area — in Hahnemann’s case, radiation oncology. But three local hospitals have the distinction of being National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. To earn this gold seal of approval, they must maintain the highest level of research and delivery of patient services, as well as conduct outreach and education for both a public and professional audience. All three are ahead of the pack in technical advances, like a GPS-type technology, called the Calypso 4D Location System, that tracks the progress of prostate cancer during radiation treatment; robotic-assisted surgeries; MammoSite, a radiation option for breast cancer patients who’ve had lumpectomies (it targets rays to the tumor site, rather than attacking the whole breast, and cuts treatment time to five days instead of seven weeks); and VATS, a video-assisted minimal-incision device for removing lung cancers. Philadelphians are lucky to have three such remarkable facilities in our city.
With a U.S. News & World Report ranking of 11th in the country for cancer, the 100-bed Fox Chase Cancer Center treats nothing but cancer, and prides itself on offering patients technology-driven treatment delivered by quality physicians in their chosen sub-specialties. Its investigators have won some of the leading awards in medicine, including the Nobel and Lasker prizes. Fox Chase is a strong proponent of personalized medicine for breast cancer patients, such as Oncotype DX, a test that measures the aggressiveness of tumors to assess the need for chemotherapy. And Fox Chase was a leader in risk-assessment programs for melanoma, GI and prostate cancers, and for women with family histories of breast and ovarian cancer (333 Cottman Avenue, 888-FOX CHASE, fccc.edu).
UPHS’s big-umbrella Abramson Cancer Center, with its number 29 slot in U.S. News, has particularly strong programs in breast cancer through the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital (whose Women’s Imaging Center was honored as one of the five of the most influential such centers in the country by Imaging Technology News, for innovations like fully digitalized facilities) and the Rena Rowan Breast Center at HUP, co-created by star oncologist John Glick. At any given time, 200 clinical trials are available to patients, supported by a whopping $200 million in federal grants. The Living Well After Cancer program — funded by Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network — supports counseling and research to help patients live longer and better lives. Other standouts are lung cancer treatment, under nationally known lung surgeon Larry Kaiser; blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma — UPHS leads the region in stem-cell and bone-marrow transplants — and melanoma (3400 Spruce Street, 800-789-PENN, http://pennhealth.com/cancer/).
The 150 physicians and scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Hospital are discovering and developing novel approaches to cancer treatment while trying to better understand the way the disease behaves. Toward this end, they conduct more than 100 clinical trials a year and manage 20 institutions in the area in the cancer-care business. Jeff’s genitourinary center brings a specialty group approach to patients with prostate, bladder, kidney, testicular and other urologic cancers, and bridges mainstream medicine with alternative and complementary therapies through the hospital’s integrative medicine program. The Jeff pancreatic, biliary and related cancers center performs a very high volume of pancreatic resections, which improve outcomes when done by experienced surgeons. The colorectal cancer section is finalizing data from an NCI study to determine if a blood test for the protein that causes traveler’s diarrhea could lead to an accurate picture of the extent and progress of colon and rectal cancers. Its melanoma care center has been honored as a center of excellence by the Melanoma Hope Network, for treating a rare cancer originating in the eye and for developing a vaccine that uses patients’ own tumor cells to improve survival in skin cancer. The busy radiation oncology center offers all the latest modalities, and the liver cancer docs are working on a technique that delivers radiation directly to tumors through tiny beads (233 South 10th Street, 800-JEFF-NOW, kimmelcancercenter.org).
The Cancer Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wasn’t singled out as an NCI Comprehensive Center because it falls under the umbrella of UPHS. But it has been recognized repeatedly by Child Magazine as the number one pediatric cancer program in the U.S. Each year it treats 500 new patients and follows more than 4,000 who, if they’re among the fortunate, graduate to the Cancer Survivorship Program, which helps them navigate the physical and emotional issues of life after cancer. They come here for treatments not available elsewhere, particularly when hope runs out. Many members of the staff are nationally and internationally recognized in care and research of the cancers that strike the young; their multidisciplinary philosophy is that this is a child-focused, family-centered place supremely equipped to diagnose, treat and manage all childhood cancers. Anything done at the NCI hospitals for adults is done here for kids. And CHOP fast-tracks many experimental protocols that need testing in children (34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, 215-590-1000, chop.edu).