About the Cancer Center at Albert Einstein Medical Center

 

The cancer specialists at Einstein’s Cancer Center are dedicated clinicians and researchers committed to providing the highest level of cancer care. These experts take a multi-disciplinary team approach and provide the latest cancer care, from prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment, through palliative and end-of-life care. The Cancer Center is fully accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. Einstein's Breast Program recently received full accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. Einstein patients receive care at three locations: the Cancer Center at Einstein’s main campus on Old York Road in Philadelphia, the Center One campus in northeast Philadelphia, and the Einstein at Elkins Park campus in Elkins Park, Pa.

Cancer.

It can be one of the scariest words patient will ever hear from their physician. A diagnosis of cancer begins a journey that includes a myriad of physicians and treatments, not to mention emotional and physical challenges. It can also be a financial hardship for the patient and his or her family. The cost of cancer is estimated by the National Institutes of Health to be approximately $263.8 billion, of which $102.8 billion is for direct medical costs.

With the American Cancer Society's estimate of over 12.4 million cases of cancer diagnosed in 2008, there is a clear need for the medical community to come together and find new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat this menacing disease.

The Cancer Center at Einstein, which has been a regional leader in cancer treatment, is about to get that opportunity to make a difference on the national stage. Through a competitive process conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Einstein has been selected to participate in the second phase of NCI's Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP) and was awarded $2,386,000. With 14 hospitals from around the nation chosen to participate in this phase of the study, the project will now include 30 healthcare institutions nationwide.

"This grant will enable us to raise the bar in the care we can provide to our patients," says Dr. William Tester, Medical Director of Einstein's Cancer Center. "Einstein has a long tradition of being very strong as both a teaching and community hospital. We are now in a position to be a premier cancer center in the region."

The two-year grant will underwrite 15 new positions for nurses, social workers, patient navigators and lab technicians, who will focus on eight distinct yet inter-related areas. These focus areas are mobilized into subcommittees, with key Einstein leaders and staff responsible for achieving their respective goals.

The intensity of undergoing cancer treatment can often lead to a strong bond between patients and their doctors and oncologists.

"Once patients complete their course of treatment, they sometimes feel lost and at odds because they don't see their oncologists very often," explains Dr. Tester. Cancer survivors often return to their primary care physician once their treatment is complete. Most patients feel a great deal of anxiety about possible reoccurrence, warning signs or ongoing health management that would best be answered by an oncologist.

"By creating a continuum of care that includes patients' follow-up visits with their oncologists and doctors, there is a comfort level for patients who can continue to be evaluated by physicians they know and trust. This will also enhance the physicians' ability to track their patients recovery and monitor their conditions."

An important element of the grant also includes screenings for patients' high-risk family members.

"Some cancers, such as colon cancer, show up with higher frequency in some families. A diagnosis for one person could mean the family has a genetic predisposition and therefore is at higher risk," says Dr. Tester. "We already conduct screenings for high-risk families but our NCI selection will allow us to expand our scope of services."


Einstein Cancer Center Administrator Christopher
Minnick, MSW with JoAnn Ackler, RN, OCN


Einstein Cancer Center Medical Director
William Tester, MD, FACP consults with patient



  

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Addressing Disparities of Care
Einstein has an extensive history of providing quality care to all those who live in the community. Too often, patients don't come in for a diagnosis of treatment until they are in later stages of cancer or they become overwhelmed by the complexities of their treatment plans.

One of the goals of this grant is to reduce the disparities faced by our patients with cancer diagnoses by improving their chances of survival with earlier diagnosis, greater access to clinical trials and assistance with managing treatment plans. Studies have shown that early diagnosis is key in increasing the survival rate of those diagnosed.

One of the best tools for early diagnosis of many cancers is screening. Our selection as a NCCCP site will give us the resources to work within our community to dispel common myths about cancer; educate the community about the benefits of early detection; and conduct community-wide cancer screenings for diseases such as breast, prostate and colon cancers.

We will also be able to hire nurse navigators to lighten the burden for cancer patients by coordinating their oncology, radiation, chemotherapy and other appointments, allowing them to focus on getting well.

"There is a special emphasis on reaching out to disparate populations, as we know that their access to quality cancer care is hampered by many barriers. This initiative is highly focused on involving, navigating and supporting patients through their entire cancer experience at Einstein, including survivorship care post-treatment,"says Christopher Minnick, MSW, Einstein Cancer Center Administrator and administrative lead on the NCCCP initiative.

Communications
Einstein will invest in additional communications resources. "Our goal is to provide useful information about cancer and the high quality of cancer treatment services available at Einstein to both professionals and patients who are searching for resources in diagnosing and treating the disease," says Mr. Minnick. 

Quality Initiatives
Einstein already follows the national guidelines for quality and best practices designated by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)."With the addition of a Quality Improvement Coordinator, Einstein's medical oncology practice will participate in ASCO's Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI), which promotes excellence in cancer care through creating a culture of self examination and improvement among the physicians,"says Mr. Minnick. The ultimate goal is for the Cancer Center to obtain ASCO QOPI Certification after demonstrating compliance with 24 rigorous clinical requirements that reflect the most current and evidence-based standard of care for breast, colorectal, and other cancers. This designation would rank Einstein among the top cancer programs in the nation.

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Research and Biospecimens
Our NCI selection will facilitate the study of tissue and tumor specimens to gain more information about cancer and potential treatments. Einstein's pathologists will study the molecular characteristics of the tumors, which will allow oncologists to better select treatments based on the tumors' molecular markers. "These will enable physicians to order therapies that are more targeted and have fewer and less severe side effects for patients," says Dr. Tester.

Einstein staff will join 29 other medical institutions that contribute their findings to a national data bank and tumor collection will become more uniform. "This component will have a far-reaching impact, even for questions we haven't thought about yet," says Dr. Tester. "Years from now, researchers will be able to use the data we submit to contribute to studies that aren't even on anyone's radar screen. This is a very exciting element of the project and what we learn at Einstein will play an important role in the evolution of studying and treating cancer nationally."

Clinical Trials
One of the primary goals of the grant is to increase participation in NCI-approved clinical trials. Currently, only three to five percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients are enrolled in clinical trials across the US, and Einstein's numbers reflect those national statistics. "There are many reasons for those low numbers," says Dr. Tester. "Sometimes, patients don't know about what clinical trials are available or don't understand the process. In some cases, the barriers are simply a matter of logistics such as lack of transportation needed to follow through on the tests and check-ups required during clinical trials. We will now be able to provide staff and resources to overcome these barriers and increase participation in clinical studies."

Information Technology
Grant funding will enhance Einstein's information technology systems to design and create new databases focusing on cancer patients. The new systems will make it possible to share information not only through the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, but also with the other medical institutions participating in the program. When the infrastructure is in place, it will also allow researchers from around the country to access the data and inform their own studies.

Palliative Care/Relieving Symptoms
For patients undergoing cancer therapies, palliative care can significantly improve their quality of life. Funds from the grant will be used to further integrate Einstein's palliative care program in the outpatient setting for better pain assessment and management. Einstein palliative care specialists will also benefit from monthly conference calls with their fellow NCCCP colleagues to discuss challenges and best practices.

Challenges and Opportunities
The scope and breath of the work to be done is daunting, but the potential impact is significant. While the prestige associated with a selection by the NCI is well deserved, the optimal care of patients is most important for the Einstein Cancer Center team.

As we position ourselves as a nationally recognized Cancer Center, we are living our mission by providing revolutionary care "for as many as we can reach."