Ending a 23-year relationship with the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Orlando Health announced today that it will partner with the University of Florida for its cancer center.
On Jan. 31, the it will officially become UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health, said officials from Orlando Health and University of Florida Health.
Together, they will become one of the top five comprehensive cancer centers in the state for patient volume, said Dr. David Guzick, president of UF Health, a ranking that puts them in the same league as Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, he said.
"The UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health is not an affiliation like the one we are concluding today. It is a full partnership," said Orlando Health Board Chair Dianna Morgan.
The main difference is, the two entities will be work as equals, and Orlando Health won't pay an annual licensing fee to access MD Anderson consultants.
Orlando Health decided not to renew its business relationship with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for many reasons, Morgan said.
Orlando Health paid an annual fee to MD Anderson-Houston for access to its consultants as well as to the institution's brand.
That savings is one the center should be able to pass onto patients. "I'm very confident that's what we'll be able to do in the next couple of months," said Dr. Wayne Jenkins, president of Orlando Health Physician Partners.
Cancer is on the rise in Florida. According to recent studies by the National Cancer Institute, Florida now has the second-largest cancer rate in America. Cancer has surpassed heart disease as a leading cause of death in the Sunshine State.
"A need of this magnitude requires an innovative strategy for meeting this growing demand for cancer treatment and care," Morgan said.
"Cancer is not a disease like smallpox or polio that can be vanquished by a single event," said UF President Bernie Machen. "It has many manifestation. Only by coming together with many disciplines can scientists and doctors expect to be its equal. This is our best model for ending cancer."
The new center will have 170 cancer physicians and scientists, or double the current number of the Orlando cancer center, and will see 10,000 new patients a year, said Guzick. Currently UF Health and MD Anderson-Orlando each sees about 5,000 new patients a year.
Orlando patients will continue to receive their cancer care from the same Orlando Health cancer specialists.
However, they will have access to more specialists, to drugs not previously available and to more opportunities for personalized cancer care based on genetics, said Dr. Mark Roh, current president of MD Anderson-Orlando. Roh will become president of the new entity.
In helping to launch the new collaboration, Dr. Phillips Charities gave a $1.5 million grant, specifically to develop personalized care through genetic research, Machen announced.
"Personalized cancer care involves genetic exploration of tumors and appropriate chemotherapy treatments based on that analysis," said Machen.
The ending is "emotional," said Roh, who has a long history with MD Anderson. "We're honored to have been the first affiliate of this renowned institution and will continue to practice cancer care based on its proven principles."
"They got us started and helped us recruit physicians," said Jenkins. "We outgrew what they could provide us, which does nothing to negate all they did for us."
Orlando Health began its affiliation with MD Anderson in 1991.