How Miami Cancer Institute’s role in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance improves treatment options for cancer patients in South Florida

Michael J. Zinner Founding CEO & Executive Medical Director – Miami Cancer Institute

 

As the third member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, what is the importance of the hybrid academic and community cancer care model?

Around 85 percent of cancer care in this community is delivered in a hospital setting, not in highly academic research settings. A hybrid cancer center, of which there are now several in the U.S., is the marriage of a community hospital and an academic research institution. Our institution is Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. It means we are able to offer the same standards of care including clinical trials, resources and capabilities as one would receive in Manhattan. There is a distinction between what other national cancer centers do and what we are doing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cancer centers that are branding exercises where the nationally-recognized name on a building creates the idea of better practices. This is not what we have done. For the past two years, Miami Cancer Institute has gone through a series of checks to ensure that the standards of care offered here in Miami are the same standards offered at Memorial Sloan Kettering and through the Cancer Alliance. For each cancer, there is a list of everything that needs to be done, for instance the preparation for surgery and during surgery in the operating room. There is a checklist the size of a telephone book that need to be prepared. This method is very different from other relationships and institutions around the country.

What are the advantages of proton therapy?

There is a difference between traditional X-ray therapy and proton therapy. Traditional X-rays are used to essentially burn a tumor. It burns the tissue on the way in, gets the tumor and then burns the tissue on the way out. There is a lot of harm to normal tissue. Proton therapy, however, has virtually no normal tissue side effects. It is very precise. Essentially, it only burns the tumor, but not the tissue around it. This is critical in children because if the normal tissue of a child is burnt, it interferes with development. It will also be critical in cases of brain tumors where you don’t want to damage the normal nerves around the targeted area. The same could be applied to spinal areas. We are expanding its use into other areas. For example, women who have had radiation therapy for breast cancer are at a higher risk of contracting a heart disease because of the cancer’s close proximity to the heart and the imprecise nature of that therapy. We might be able to eliminate that side effect by using proton therapy. The proton therapy unit is a very high-tech piece of equipment. It will take up to six months to get is calibrated and we expect to be treating patients in late summer 2017.