Opportunities Abound at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
“I expect that within
the next five years,
Children’s will be
home to one of the
in the country.”
– Dr. Stephen
for Cancer and
Recently recruited faculty, a state-of-the-art facility, cutting-edge research, dozens of clinical trials, patient-centered care and strong community support are a few of the elements of Children's Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders that set it apart in providing world-class care.
Collaboration With the University of Colorado Cancer Center
Children's Hospital Colorado’s recent move to I-225 and East Colfax Avenue and its adjacent location to the University of Colorado Cancer Center provide distinct advantages in delivering exceptional care to patients. The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and the University of Colorado Cancer Center treat similar diseases in different patient populations and the relationships between the pediatric and adult hematologists/oncologists allow for collaborative care for patients, in particular older adolescents and young adults.
Many new drugs are first tested in adults, and Children’s faculty has direct knowledge of those new therapies. For example, the Centers are closely linked through the work of Dr. Lia Gore and the Experimental Therapeutics Program (ETP). A critical function of the ETP is to facilitate the translation of the basic science laboratory efforts within the division into effective clinical application for advancements in patient care.
All patients have access to research trials at either Children’s or the University of Colorado Hospital and enrollment depends in part, on age and diagnosis. Treatment and research options are customized to each patient for improved outcomes.
“Children’s new location offers us the opportunity to accomplish more than we could have at the old campus,” states Dr. Stephen Hunger, newly announced section chief of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Hospital Colorado. “I’m unaware of any place else where you have an entire medical campus that was built in the 21st century. In three years we’ll have 1.5 million square feet of lab research space and three hospitals on site. Children's Hospital Colorado is indeed gorgeous but integrated inpatient and outpatient programs, a family-centered care state-of-the-art facility and an enhanced partnership with our adult counterparts at the University of Colorado are what set us apart from other hospitals. I expect that within the next five years, Children’s will be home to one of the top pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant centers in the country.”
The Rick Wilson Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
By the Numbers
Children's Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders has:
- 20 faculty members
- 12 physician assistants and nurse practitioners
- 24 Inpatient beds
- More than 1,000 hospital admissions per year
- More than 12,000 outpatient visits per year
- 35 Bone Marrow Transplant patients per year
- 72 Open clinical trials
- 260 Clinical trial enrollments in 2007
The contiguous inpatient and outpatient floor for cancer care at Children's Hospital Colorado is known as the Rick Wilson Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. The unit was made possible by a generous $10 million donation from The Monfort Family Foundation. The Center occupies the entire seventh floor of Children's Hospital Colorado and includes 24 inpatient beds for hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant patients, an adjacent outpatient clinic and a large infusion center. The bone marrow transplant section of the unit has separate family amenities such as a patient playroom, a patient exercise area, a family lounge and a kitchen.
To date, the Center is noted for excellence in sickle cell anemia, bleeding and clotting disorders, leukemia, lymphoma, bone marrow transplantation (BMT), clinical and research expertise in childhood brain tumors, the investigation of the biology of viruses involved in human cancer, vaccine development and other areas. For example, one of the Center’s recent achievements includes Dr. Robert Garcea’s work in developing a low-cost vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. This initiative will have a very positive effect in the developing world as the low-priced vaccine can be more widely distributed.
Children’s Oncology Group (COG)
Several faculty members of the Center play major roles in Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an international organization that conducts research and clinical trials worldwide. Dr. Stephen Hunger is the chair of the acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) disease committee of COG. The committee designs and conducts clinical trials, of which most American and Canadian children with ALL (approximately 2,000 children) are treated. Dr. Kelly Maloney is chair of the current standard-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia clinical trial, the largest clinical trial ever conducted in the United States. Children's Hospital Colorado is one of the largest participating institutions in the COG. This relationship provides our patients with access to many clinical trials, of which there are currently 72 open trials.
Clinics Throughout the Region
Expertise from Children’s pediatric hematologists and oncologists is readily available throughout the region. In 2006, Children's Hospital Colorado signed a management agreement with Childhood Hematology Oncology Associates (CHOA).
Dr. Tom Smith in CHOA’s Littleton office and Drs. Bruce Cook and Steve Palmer in CHOA’s Colorado Springs’ office treat children and adolescents with cancer and blood disorders close to their home. The ease in which patients and families from the south metro Denver area and southern Colorado can access care close to their homes allows for timely and convenient access to treatment and coordinated long-term care. CHOA’s three physicians are faculty members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and members of Children's Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, which provides patients with access to the breadth and depth of specialists, services and clinical trials available in the organization.
Dr. Hunger notes, “We are moving toward a model in which patients will be able to receive the same high quality care in Aurora, Littleton and Colorado Springs. In cases where patients need very highly specialized care such as bone marrow transplant, or access to the Pediatric Experimental Therapeutics Program, that will be provided at Children's Hospital Colorado.”
Dr. Rachelle Nuss, an expert in sickle cell anemia, provides quarterly clinics in Colorado Springs , which further demonstrates Children’s commitment to bring world-class care closer to home for patients, thereby easing stress and transportation issues during a difficult time. In addition, Dr. Chris Silliman and Dr. Tom Smith travel to Grand Junction monthly to provide general oncology clinics on the western slope. This care is complemented by Dr. Brian Greffe’s Helping Oncology Patients Excel (H.O.P.E.) Clinic which is also offered in Grand Junction . The H.O.P.E. Clinic was created in 1987 to provide support and education to childhood cancer survivors of all ages. The clinic was one of the first in the country dedicated to treating long-term pediatric cancer survivors.
Family-centered care is at the heart of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. In addition to board-certified physicians, the care team also includes nurses and nurse practitioners who are specially trained and oriented in the care of hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant patients. Nurses at the Center are active in COG and are members of the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON). Nurses complete competency training in the delivery of chemotherapy and when ready, take the Chemotherapy and Biotherapy provider course. An additional team of nurses are Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurses (CPON), a nationally recognized certification. The care team also includes pharmacists who are specially trained in hematology/oncology/BMT, four social workers who work exclusively with the Center, dietitians, case managers, two child life therapeutic recreation specialists, art therapists and chaplains. Patients of the Center may also work with music, yoga, art and dance/movement therapists from the Ponzio Creative Arts Therapy Program.
The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders incorporates a teacher of school-age children on the team so students can continue their studies while hospitalized. Lastly, even the volunteers at the Rick Wilson Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders are specially trained and oriented to the special needs of inpatients, outpatients and their families. The staff is dedicated to improving the quality of life for cancer patients and no other hospital in the region offers such a comprehensive care team to treat children and young adults with cancer.
One of the areas of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders that is noted for expansion is the care of older adolescents and young adults with cancer. While there have been tremendous advances in the cure of children with cancer over the past few decades, patients 15-21 years old have not seen anywhere near the improvement in survival that has been seen in younger children. Fewer of these patients participate in clinical trials than is the case for younger children. However, they fare much better if they are treated in a pediatric center.
“For example,” states Dr. Hunger, “older adolescents with acute lymphocytic leukemia have a 20-30 percent better chance of being cured if they are treated in a pediatric setting.” He elaborates, “We work collaboratively with pediatricians, family physicians, internists and specialists to care for their pediatric and adolescent patients here. It has been proven that children with cancer who are treated in a pediatric or adolescent setting have better outcomes than those treated in an adult setting. I think that it is important to ask where you would want your own older adolescent treated if he or she were unfortunate enough to develop cancer. For me, this is unequivocally at Children's Hospital Colorado. We are working to make this opportunity available to all older adolescents.”
“We have done a good job in that 80-85 percent of pediatric patients with cancer are cured and that is remarkable. However, many patients experience short and long-term side effects. Chemotherapy nonspecifically kills cells that grow fast, but we are beginning to understand how to better develop targeted therapies that specifically kill cancer cells. We have every hope that drugs will become less toxic and more effective. Children's Hospital Colorado offers the integration of top notch patient care linked closely to laboratories that will move therapies to patients more quickly. In the meantime, we recognize the importance of providing healthcare and education for our survivors. We have been a leader in providing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary clinic for survivors through our H.O.P.E. Clinic led by Dr. Brian Greffe.”
Cooperation With Primary Care Providers
The specialists at Children's Hospital Colorado gratefully acknowledge the trust that primary care providers put in them to collaboratively care for children with cancer and blood disorders.
“Children’s receives steadfast support from community physicians and providers. We look forward to developing ways to maintain and grow relations with primary care providers and we want to best meet their needs,” states Dr. Hunger. “I invite the community to contact me anytime at email@example.com to share ideas on how we can better serve them and their patients.”