When Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center opened for patient care this year, cancer patients living in Southern California gained easier access to one of the most advanced cancer care programs in the nation.
In this video, Thomas Buchholz, MD, radiation oncologist and medical director of Scripps MD Anderson, and San Diego Health host Susan Taylor talk about how Scripps Health has joined forces with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the impact this historic partnership is expected to have on patient care.
“We’re combining expertise to deliver world-renowned care for cancer patients here in Southern California,” says Dr. Buchholz, who spent 20 years at Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center in various leadership roles.
The new program builds on Scripps’ history of providing excellent cancer care in San Diego County. Dr. Buchholz says the partnership takes it to a new level by combining the expertise of two nationally recognized health systems.
As such, Scripps MD Anderson is set to be a comprehensive and clinically integrated cancer center program that provides highly personalized care and is easy to access. “We have the good fortune that Scripps is a health care system that spans all of San Diego County,” Dr. Buchholz says.
The partnership also offers local access to leading cancer experts at top-ranked MD Anderson.
Scripps MD Anderson is now part of the MD Anderson Cancer Network, a global collaborative network of hospitals and health care systems dedicated to MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer around the world.
But what does this all mean for Scripps patients, especially those who have just been diagnosed with cancer?
“Immediately we want to be there for people, and help them recognize that where you get your cancer treatment really matters,” Dr. Buchholz says. “We want to welcome them to Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center and we want to do so in a very patient-centric way.”
Patient support services are a key part of Scripps MD Anderson.
“We’ve doubled the number of nurse navigators,” Dr. Buchholz says. “So, right away a cancer patient will be greeted by a warm and caring medical professional who can help ensure that they find the right treatment team, in the right location and at the right time.”
Nurse navigators will help patients arrange initial evaluations with multidisciplinary clinics.
Traditionally, cancer patients set up appointments with medical, surgical and radiation oncologists separately. Scripps MD Anderson’s multidisciplinary approach to cancer care changes that.
“Before, a cancer patient would come and receive fragmented opinions, maybe in different geographic locations, or different periods in a calendar week, but now all the doctors are coming together around the patient in a very patient-centric way,” Dr. Buchholz says.
Scripps patients will have access to MD Anderson’s clinical trial program, which is the largest in the country. MD Anderson researchers conduct hundreds of clinical trials to test new treatments for both common and rare cancers.
“We are going to identify which clinical trials fit best and offer patients here enrollment in such trials,” Dr. Buchholz says.
Dr. Buchholz, who is also a researcher and scholar, says advances in cancer care and research have made this is an exciting time to be an oncologist. “There has been a host of new advances across all disciplines,” he says. He cites breakthroughs in surgery, radiation therapy and drug treatments as evidence that the fight against cancer is moving in the right direction.
Still, he says, while these advances have led to a decline in cancer-related deaths, the number of new cancer cases continues to rise as people are living longer. Age is a cancer risk factor.
“As people get into their 70s and 80s more commonly now, we're going to still see new cancers developing," he says. “The hope is to be able to treat cancer someday as something that is not life-threatening.”
Dr. Buchholz noted the MD Anderson logo — which features the tag line “Making Cancer History” — is a daily reminder of the urgency of his work, as well as its many rewards.
“It’s a tremendously rewarding profession in which I work. It’s a privilege to be here and to help lead this effort,” Dr. Buchholz says. “We’re witnessing the impact that research can have, that outstanding clinical care can have, that cancer prevention efforts can have. We’re witnessing history being made right here, right now in San Diego.”