Lehigh Valley Health Network to Join Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance


Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) announced today the beginning of a unique and forward-thinking collaboration aimed at improving patient access to the latest and most effective cancer treatment advances and highest-caliber cancer care. Leaders from both institutions gathered to mark the first step in announcing their recently signed agreement for LVHN to join the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance.

Established in 2013, the MSK Cancer Alliance is a dynamic partnership between MSK and community oncology providers that aims to bring the most current knowledge and advanced cancer care into the community setting. In September 2014, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, part of a multihospital health care system in Connecticut, became MSK’s first Alliance member.

“For more than a century, Memorial Sloan Kettering has been delivering exceptional, patient-focused cancer care and has generated the scientific discoveries necessary to further develop effective new treatments,” said Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO of MSK. “Today, we recognize the need to do more. Central to our mission is eradicating cancer, and through the MSK Cancer Alliance — and in collaboration with Lehigh Valley Health Network — we have a unique opportunity to share our knowledge and best practices with a wider patient population.”

“Memorial Sloan Kettering chose Lehigh Valley Health Network because of our dedication to delivering high-quality, consistent cancer care across the region, and because of the proven expertise of our physicians and medical teams,” said Brian Nester, DO, President and CEO of LVHN. “Our collaboration with MSK will save lives by bringing evidence-based, world-class standards to our entire health network.”

Alliance Fulfills Vital Needs in Cancer Care Delivery

MSK’s desire to create and grow this Alliance was fueled in part by a 2013 Institute of Medicine report that described the many challenges of delivering high-quality cancer care as a “national crisis.” As advances in cancer science are happening at an ever-increasing rate, there is a realization that the adoption of lifesaving breakthroughs in clinical practice takes enormous resources and often too much time. Unfortunately, this is particularly the case in the community setting, where the majority of cancer care today — more than 80 percent — is being delivered in the United States. Furthermore, the IOM noted that by 2030, new diagnoses are expected to reach 2.3 million a year as the country’s population ages, and that there are simply not enough oncology specialists to care for patients. Additionally, doctors often experience difficulty keeping up with today’s complex new treatments, resulting in cancer treatment decisions not based on the best and most current evidence available.

“We believe the highest-quality cancer care cannot be achieved through adhering to practice recommendations alone,” said José Baselga, MD, PhD, Physician-in-Chief of MSK. “MSK’s strong desire to rapidly accelerate the pace of integrating these advances into the community setting, and our approach, will demonstrate real value to MSK and LVHN, and most importantly will improve the lives of the patients we care for. We look forward to learning firsthand how advances can be more easily applied in a community setting through the MSK Cancer Alliance, while doing so in the most cost-effective way, since our Alliance does not require major structural changes such as the development of new facilities.”

Looking Ahead

Over the next several months, MSK will collaboratively guide LVHN toward strengthening its patient care and clinical cancer research programs. Teams of physicians and other healthcare providers from both institutions will work diligently side by side for hundreds of hours to ensure that resources, capabilities, and standards of care are in line with the highest and most recent standards of the MSK Cancer Alliance.

Additionally, LVHN physicians will have opportunities to visit MSK’s Manhattan facilities to observe new techniques, and both institutions will share educational resources and begin the process of putting into place the infrastructure necessary to measure outcomes data.

Such unprecedented levels of knowledge sharing — multiplied each time a member joins the MSK Cancer Alliance — will foster the rapid application of the latest and most-effective cancer treatments in community settings.

“We are excited to work alongside MSK and the future members of the Alliance to discover new, innovative cancer treatments,” said Suresh Nair, MD, director, LVHN cancer program. “That’s the bottom line: providing more hope and better outcomes for our patients.

Sharing a Deep Expertise

While this intensive review period occurs, some LVHN physicians will also have the opportunity to meet with and discuss their more complex cancer cases with MSK physicians, who have experience in treating different forms of cancers and related blood disorders, including rare cancers that are simply not often seen in a community setting.

“One of MSK’s many strengths is our experts’ deep expertise in treating the most uncommon forms of cancers, such as sarcomas and thyroid cancer,” said Dr. Baselga. “What’s uncommon or rare in the overall medical community is usually not so uncommon at MSK.”

MSK physicians see a larger volume of patients with uncommon cancers because of its strong referral network, and that allows MSK to have specialists in diseases that the community is not able to deal with at the same level of expertise. Similarly, MSK physicians have more familiarity in dealing with more rare cancers and their related complications, and in deciding which therapy is most appropriate for which subgroup of patients. “Our physicians understand the toxicity of these therapies so well and can manage patients through them,” said Dr. Baselga. “That takes judgment and experience, and all of this knowledge will be shared with our colleagues at LVHN. This is of extreme benefit for the patients they care for.”

Expanding Access to Clinical Research Trials

Central to the MSK Cancer Alliance is creating a strong foundation and system for the expansion and integration of MSK’s clinical trials program into LVHN’s community and surrounding region. With more than 800 clinical trials currently available at its facilities, MSK is leading the nation’s effort in seeking new and better ways to treat cancer, and being able to provide LVHN patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials not previously available will only further that mission.

Membership in the MSK Cancer Alliance is also a meaningful designation, one that demonstrates a desire on both parties’ behalves to participate in bidirectional learning but also makes education a priority for its communities. As the Alliance continues to grow, educational programs and opportunities for the general public and professional audiences will be made available on-site at LVHN campuses.

“The months ahead will be spent further developing our cancer program and mission of providing the absolute best care for our patients closer to where they live,” said Dr. Nester. “We have always been here for our communities, and we’ll continue to do so with even a deeper knowledge and expertise.”

About the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance is an initiative designed to collaboratively guide community providers toward state-of-the-art cancer care. Our overarching goal is to improve the lives of cancer patients through dynamic partnership with local care providers. For more information about the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, go to www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/msk-alliance.

Lehigh Valley Health Network
Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) cancer program is the only one in the region to be selected a National Cancer Center Community Cancer Centers Program, and was responsible for the care of 3,200 newly diagnosed cancer patients in 2014. The health network includes five hospital campuses - three in Allentown, one in Bethlehem and one in Hazleton, Pa.; 13 health centers caring for communities in five counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the region; pharmacy, imaging, home health services and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Other specialty care includes: trauma care at the region’s busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the Regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the region, provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognized by US News & World Report for 20 consecutive years as one of America’s Best Hospitals and is a national Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing.  Additional information is available at lvhn.org and by following us on Facebook.com/LVHealthNetwork and Twitter.com/LVHN.