Shawnee Mission Health announced Wednesday it has become the 17th hospital in the country to join the MD Anderson Cancer Network.
The designation gives Shawnee Mission Health staff streamlined access to doctors from the Houston-based hospital system that U.S. News and World Report ranks No. 1 in the United States for cancer treatment.
“It is not every day you get to work closely with the top experts in as challenging an area as cancer care,” said Samuel Caughron, a pathologist at Shawnee Mission Health. “From a medical staff perspective, this program and the value it brings to our community; there’s palpable excitement about what this is going to mean for the patients at Shawnee Mission.”
Shawnee Mission Health is the first provider in the Kansas City area to join the MD Anderson network.
Other members in the region include the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia, the Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute in Tulsa and Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Becca Bell, the administrative director of oncology services who helped establish Shawnee Mission Health’s cancer center in 2014, said the health system went through about a year of vetting by MD Anderson officials to gain membership.
They audited the health system to ensure it follows MD Anderson guidelines for safety and effectiveness in cancer care and those audits will continue on an annual basis.
“Once we became certified that gives us kind of the stamp of approval or the validation that what we are practicing here is at the MD Anderson standard,” Bell said.
Bell said the partnership will fast-track requests to consult with MD Anderson physicians via phone and make it easier to get patients referred to Houston, if necessary.
William Murphy, a doctor with MD Anderson, said the institution’s policy is to respond to consultation requests from network members within 48 hours.
He said MD Anderson saw 135,000 individual cancer patients last year, which gives its doctors experience with even the rarest and hardest-to-treat forms of the disease.
“What we’re trying to do is help a very good organization get even better because we all really want to cure this disease,” Murphy said. “To eradicate it and prevent it where we can prevent it.”
Murphy said MD Anderson receives more federal cancer research funding than any hospital in the country. He said the health system’s U.S. Food and Drug Administration Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials are generally only conducted at the main location in Houston, but Shawnee Mission Health’s membership in the network will increase its chances of being a site for Phase 3 and 4 trials.
Murphy and Bell both said there’s a fee to be part of the MD Anderson network, but neither would say how much it is.
Shawnee Mission Health is the second local hospital system to partner with a big-name cancer center this year. St. Luke’s Health System announced in May that it had partnered with the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Siteman and MD Anderson are National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The University of Kansas Cancer Center became an NCI-designated cancer center in 2012, but KU’s request for the “comprehensive” upgrade was denied this year. KU remains the only NCI-designated Cancer Center in the region.