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The Department Today, with an Eye Toward Tomorrow

Overview

Oncologists in the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson often evaluate and treat patients with cancer through a multidisciplinary approach, with Jefferson physicians in nearly every medical specialty to provide personalized, holistic care. Our nationally renowned cancer experts provide care for patients with all types of cancers, ranging from common cancers such as lung, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers and lymphomas to far less common cancers such as melanomas originating in the eye and sarcomas.  Our physicians, and scientists are nationally and internationally renown for their expertise in cancer care and research and are considered key-opinion leaders in their respective subspecialties. Jefferson's philosophy emphasizes basic science and translational research as a platform for the cutting edge practice of oncology.

The Department consists of 41 university salaried faculty members. At the present time, the university faculty members are organized into three clinical divisions based on predominant disease interests and sites of practice as well as a Population Science Division.  The Division of Hematologic Malignancies & Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation has 9 faculty members in a coordinated group practice who are also responsible for three inpatient services. The transplant program, within this Division has established an international reputation for its unique approach to haplo-identical (half matched) transplants and is building similar reputations for its other programs in leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplasia, and, multiple myeloma.

The Solid Tumor Division is composed of a group of disease-oriented subspecialty programs and an early drug/phase I program, which includes 18 members with focus on GI, Lung, Head & Neck, GU, Ob/Gyn, Breast Cancer, Melanoma, Neurooncology, and all of the other common and rare solid malignancies.  Many of the faculty members are well-established thought leaders in their fields.  The Melanoma program, for example, working in collaboration with Wills Eye Hospital, sees a large percentage of individuals with uveal melanoma and is extending a long and distinguished track record of immunotherapeutic advances to the treatment of this unique form of melanoma. 

The Division of Regional Cancer Care was established in 2009 with the goal of developing strategically located practice sites throughout the tri-state area in efforts to extend the highest quality cancer care from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson into the community. The division currently consists of 8 board certified physicians, who specialize in the evaluation and treatment of adults with all types of cancer and blood diseases, seeing patients at four convenient practice locations across the Delaware Valley. Within this division, the Senior Adult Oncology Center was established in September 2010, and continues to see elders, age 70 and above, in a multidisciplinary office setting at both the Jefferson and Methodist sites.  This program has become an important adjunct to cancer care in this rapidly growing patient group. 

In 2008, the Department of Medical Oncology and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University established the Division of Population Science to provide a central focus for institutional research activities related to cancer prevention and control. The division, currently consisting of 3 research faculty members, was formed to advance applied research in behavioral, social, and epidemiological science; and to develop new methods that can be used to improve the quality of cancer care in diverse populations and reduce the burden of cancer.

Jefferson's Medical Oncology cancer care happens throughout the City of Philadelphia.  In center city we are located within the Jefferson campus, in South Philadelphia at both Methodist Hospital and The Navy Yard, and in the Northeast at Nazareth Hospital. The department evaluates over 2,000 newly-diagnosed cancer patients each year.  Our experts have helped prepare roadmaps for care incorporating both novel, leading-edge treatments as well as tried and true therapies as appropriate for the particular clinical circumstances.  These roadmaps help to ensure that every patient receives the same high level of care throughout our department. 

Patient care at our Center City location, at 925 Chestnut across the street from the main hospital complex, is provided in a recently constructed facility consisting of over 30 infusion chairs and beds and over 20 exam rooms. Approximately 20,000 outpatient visits occurred in fiscal year 2010. Faculty members also participate in multidisciplinary breast, GU, and lung clinics. Inpatient care is provided on a 12 bed transplant unit and a 25 bed oncology unit.  Our south campus at Methodist has also had a new infusion center constructed, consisting of 11 infusion chairs and beds and 4 exam rooms.  Patients seen at the Navy Yard site are transported to Methodist if and when they require infusion services.  Plans are underway to renovate and expand our Nazareth site during the next year and discussions are underway to strategically expand our regional services to additional sites. 

At any given time, there are more than 120 clinical trials for promising new cancer treatments and diagnostic methods being conducted at Jefferson. Innovative therapies are being evaluated through collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, various pharmaceutical companies and programs developed at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson. Vaccine development and other forms of immunotherapy are also under active investigation.

Training the next generation of physicians and scientists including the next generation of thought leaders is an important part of our mission.  The Hematology/ Medical Oncology Fellowship Program trains physicians in a multi-disciplinary, research-based, patient-oriented approach to the practice of medical oncology.  Our physicians provide didactic training and serve as role models for our students, residents, and fellows allowing them to develop their clinical and investigative skills under the watchful eye of a seasoned practitioner. 

Medicine will change substantially over the next decade due to both scientific progress and socioeconomic forces, and no discipline will be impacted more than Medical Oncology.  Our department is trying to anticipate the impact of these changes and keep pace with them going forward.  While scientific gains will come from many areas, the potential to routinely sequence both the normal and cancer genomes is likely to become a reality over the next decade resulting in a flood of new genetic information and major opportunities to tailor care for each patient.  There are already examples where naturally occurring polymorphisms in the population alter patients’ tolerance of cancer treatments and where specific mutations occurring within the cancer determine whether or not a cancer will respond to a particular therapy.  Personalized medicine will grow in all disciplines, but will be particularly important for cancer care. 

Quality and cost effectiveness of care will also become increasingly important, driving both patient satisfaction and reimbursement.  We are endeavoring to make care more available to our patients by keeping our center city site open into the early evening and on weekends.  We will be launching an urgent care program in 2012 in an effort to increase availability to our patients when new issues arise, helping to avoid trips to the emergency room whenever safe and appropriate to do so.  Ensuring that transitions into and out of the hospital are smooth and well coordinated will also be essential for the best care.  The patient centered medical home has received much attention in primary care, but this is a model which we hope to extend to our Medical Oncology care in 2012. 

Tomorrow’s department will look quite different than today’s. Regardless, we will continue to endeavor to give our patients the best we can today and something better tomorrow.