$80 Million, State-of-the-art Facility will be Network’s Hub for Leading-Edge Cancer Research and Complex Patient Care; part of $225 Million Investment to Redefine Future of Cancer Care
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network (AHN) today unveiled plans for a new academic cancer center at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) that will provide patients with access to leading-edge cancer therapies and serve as the nucleus of cancer research, clinical trials and medical education for the AHN Cancer Institute.
Expected to open in late 2019, the new $80 million, 90,000 square-foot AHN Cancer Institute Academic Center at AGH will be the academic specialty base of an integrated, innovative, and collaborative network that takes high-quality, comprehensive cancer care into communities throughout the western Pennsylvania region. The facility is part of a $225 million commitment that Highmark and AHN have made to establish a new paradigm in community-based cancer care.
“The demand for expert cancer care is growing in our region, and so are the number of innovative treatment options available to patients today, from targeted therapies that zero in on tumors’ genetic profiles to new technologies that can eliminate the need for surgery,” said David Holmberg, President and CEO, Highmark Health. “Our significant investment in the AHN Cancer Institute will not only greatly enhance our patients’ and members’ access to care, but also transform it through the extraordinary work of our caregivers and the advanced capabilities of the facilities we are developing.”
AHN currently employs more than 200 cancer physicians and 500 oncology professionals who provide care at more than 50 affiliated cancer clinics across western Pennsylvania. In addition to the new Academic Center, the network is building multiple community cancer centers that will provide comprehensive services close-to-home for patients and their families. Locations already identified for the new facilities include Monroeville, Erie, Butler and Beaver County.
The network will be recruiting more than 200 additional oncology professionals over the next two years to staff the academic and community centers, including physicians and other specialists.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1.7 million new cancer cases – including 81,000 in Pennsylvania alone - are expected to be diagnosed in 2018, a two percent hike from 2015. Notably, approximately eighty percent of those diagnosed with cancer in Pennsylvania live outside the large population centers of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The number of cancer survivors in the U.S. is expected to rise to from 15.5 million to 20.3 million in 2026.
“At AHN, we are committed to helping patients and their families fight cancer on every front,” said Cynthia Hundorfean, President and CEO of AHN. “From collaborating with the best minds in cancer care to pioneer the treatments and cures of tomorrow, to investing in resources that improve the experience and outcomes of our patients today, to transitioning more cancer care into the communities where patients live, our focus is keeping patients at the center of everything we do.”
As the hub of the AHN Cancer Institute’s clinical trials coordination, the Academic Center will be a critical resource for the Network’s expanding collaborations with the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine Kimmel Cancer Center, including studies of novel immunotherapy regimens, genomic testing, targeted biologic therapies, and other promising new treatments. Two trials currently being offered exclusively in Pittsburgh at the Institute include a study looking at the immunotherapy Nivolumab (Opdivo) for the treatment of esophageal cancer, and another that examines a new strategy that has shown preliminary positive results for men with treatment-resistant metastatic prostate cancer, alternately flooding and starving the body of testosterone.
In total, AHN and Johns Hopkins together offer cancer patients access to novel therapies being explored in more than 600 active clinical trials between the organizations.
“With this new facility at AGH, we are establishing the academic core of a cancer care model that allows the vast majority of patients to be treated at the highest level in their own communities,” said David Parda, MD, Chair of the AHN Cancer Institute. “At our Academic Center, we will continue to care for the most complex cases, while also helping to advance our knowledge of this disease, develop new standards of care through research and clinical trials, and train the next generation of physicians and other cancer specialists.”
The Academic Center will provide a wide-array of clinical and support services for cancer patients, including, state-of-the-art radiation oncology capabilities; 49 chemotherapy infusion bays; conference and exam rooms with telemedicine capabilities to facilitate peer review and clinical collaboration, tumor boards, collaborative research projects and clinical trials development; a positive image salon; social services; nutritional counseling and financial counseling.
The new facility will house the most advanced cancer fighting technologies available, including one of the nation’s first Gamma Pod systems - a groundbreaking technology that quickly eradicates breast tumors with high precision radiation; Gamma Knife therapy for the non-invasive stereotactic treatment of brain tumors and other complex neurological conditions; and the latest in intensity modulated and image guided radiation therapy for all solid tumors, including one of the first five, state-of-the-art MRI linear accelerator capabilities in the United States.
Located adjacent to the AGH Imaging Center, the Academic Center will provide cancer patients with access to all the advanced modalities that they may need during the course of screening, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Close connections with imaging, surgery, pathology and other medical specialties at AGH will help patients at the center navigate all aspects of cancer care with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
The Academic Center will be a four-story structure, with two floors below ground and two above, located on East North Avenue and situated between the hospital’s South Tower and Sandusky Street parking garage. The façade of the structure will feature blue faceted glass with an atrium that preserves the South Tower’s historical features and connects to the hospital’s Magovern Conference Center and front rotunda entrance, providing easy access for cancer patients and families, medical professionals and the community.
Like the new community cancer centers being developed by AHN, the network’s patient-centered philosophy is also reflected in the design and aesthetics of the Academic Center. The facility will feature comfortable waiting areas, exam rooms and treatment areas that maximize privacy, abundant natural light and soft colors. Valet parking will be provided and patients will be greeted by navigators who will help manage their visit and expedite their care.
“Our facility will be designed to help patients and their families be comfortable, informed and empowered in the face of cancer, so that they can maximize their health and well-being and achieve the best possible outcomes,” Dr. Parda said.