Launched in 2012, the Smilow Cancer Care network brings together Yale’s academic cancer care model and the community care model to form the largest cancer care delivery system in Connecticut. Its 11 locations are fully integrated with the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven and offer the world class cancer care and clinical research for which Smilow is widely recognized.
Smilow Cancer Care Centers afford patients access to clinical trials and cutting edge therapies that aren’t always available in community cancer centers. “The Care Center faculty are incredibly motivated and real champions for research,” said Anne Chiang, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer for the network and Assistant Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology), “There’s a degree of confidence from both the main campus and faculty physicians on site to feel comfortable opening trials.” She noted that earlier this year, a Care Center recruited the first patient to the national Lung-MAP trial, a groundbreaking study for patients with advanced squamous cell lung cancer that is expected to involve more than 200 medical centers during the next five years.
Participating in a clinical trial used to mean that patients would have to leave the care of community physicians, a barrier to accrual that is particularly challenging in minority populations, where participation in adult cancer trials is just three percent. “I have patients who never would have thought about participating in clinical research who have been able to get a cutting edge molecular test that they never would have been able to afford,” said Andrea Silber, MD, a breast oncologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital Saint Raphael Campus. “It’s different when they’re participating in a trial with doctors and nurses that they know.” Almost half of the patients in her practice are from diverse populations and are helping to answer many clinical questions that require this kind of participation.
The network also provides patients with access to subspecialty expertise that would not otherwise be available locally. “One of the biggest advantages of this affiliation is it allows us to care for patients in the community while feeling fully supported in terms of rare cancers or common cancers when there are areas of uncertainty as to the optimal treatment,” said Neil Fischbach, MD, a medical oncologist who practices in the Trumbull and Fairfield locations. The number of cases presented at tumor boards has increased from about 30 to about 180 since launching the network in 2012.
Efforts over the last two years to implement the Care Centers, refine the transition from community practices, and build the infrastructure for operations, quality, and clinical research have resulted in an integrated network with 28 physicians, 250 staff members and an average of over 7,000 visits to Care Center medical oncologists per month.