While the center indeed is equipped with top-level equipments, Dr. Martin Wiesenfeld, medical director for the center, prefers to look at it another way.
“The term ‘state-of-the-art’ becomes kind of a cliché, so I don’t like using it,” he said. “To put it into simpler terms, we prefer to say to people: ‘We can provide you with the best care, or we can direct you to where that would be.’ ”
A staff of nearly 200 that include health care professionals from a variety of specialties — medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, pathology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, radiology and psychology — along with oncology nurse navigators, pharmacists, lab techs and other support staff coordinate care with patients and their primary care physicians through a multidisciplinary approach.
“We maintain that our nurses be (Oncology Nursing Society)-credentialed,” said Dee Eadie, the center’s executive director.
More than 60 percent of the center’s nurses have completed additional training in cancer care and have become certified oncology nurses.
The doctor side of that equation is ASCO, or the American Association of Clinical Oncologists.
“We have a really good staff,” Eadie said. “The staff here is maybe a half of a generation younger, which is very encouraging and reassuring because they are not going to age-out very quickly.”
Having noted that, equipping physicians and staff with the latest world-class equipments and offerings in cancer treatment was a dominant factor in the planning and development of the $24.6 million, 86,000-square-foot project, which opened in March.
In some cases, Hall-Perrine is the only cancer center in the country boasting some of these options:
“This equipment provides the ability to move the treatment beam and change its shape, which means the level, or intensity, of the radiation can be adjusted to help prevent the beam from affecting the part of the body through which the beam passes,” said Dr. Janet Merfeld, Hall-Perrine Cancer Center radiation oncologist. “The radiation focuses on the tumor and this significantly minimizes side effects to the patient.”
“The new Trilogy linear accelerator technology allows 3-D stereostatic radio surgery techniques where larger radiation doses can be given to extremely tiny areas, such as tumors in the brain or near the spinal cord, over a shortened period of time,” oncologist Kevin Murray added.
Trilogy was developed by Varian Medical Systems out of Palo Alto, Calif., with a price tag of about $2.6 million.
The element for human error in mixing chemo drugs is removed and allows for precise mixtures, which increases patient safety — as well as safety for the pharmacists preparing the treatments. Care providers will be able to remotely manage, audit, approve and dispense injectable medications without unnecessary exposure to the drugs.
“There is a zero-error rate with this machinery,” Eadie said. “We were the first in the United States to get it. We even beat Duke University.”
“In general, today we are looking at the trends to use multiple treatments in multidisciplinary treatments that use new technologies for staging, use new forms of treatment that work with the body — including what we call systemic treatment in using new types of new classes and new drugs that specifically target the cancer,” Wiesenfeld explained.
“We are a National Cancer Institute-designated community cancer center, and we have access to clinical trials that other undesignated sites to not have,” Eadie said, noting that the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center has 51 clinical trials going on that sites such as the Mayo Clinic, University of Iowa or even Des Moines does not have.
“We had a patient come in from Chicago recently because this is the only place that she could be on a clinical trial, and it is saving her life.”