By Jenna Haines
As a member of the Roswell Park Care Network, the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center at Oneida Health replicates the clinical care and quality assurance approaches employed at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center in Upstate New York.
Oneida Health Cancer Care, a member of the Roswell Park Care Network — the most expansive community cancer, supportive and specialized care affiliation spanning New York State, led by Roswell Park — brings high-quality services to patients with cancer in Central New York. The most recent — and one of the most exciting — developments is the opening of the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center in Oneida, which opened to the public in July 2019.
“For patients with cancer, this strong partnership between Oneida Health and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center means they no longer need to leave Oneida for their radiation or medical oncology services. They no longer need to sacrifice and supplant their personal lives in order to benefit from NCI-level cancer care.”
— Shilpa Vyas, MD, Medical Director of the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center
Advanced Services, Technology and Expertise
The Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center is a 6,000-square-foot facility overseen by the center’s full-time Medical Director, Shilpa Vyas, MD, a fellowship-trained, board-certified Roswell Park radiation oncologist.
“Oneida Health Cancer Care is essentially a clinical extension of Roswell Park,” Dr. Vyas says. “I am available at the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center five days a week, and it is my responsibility to ensure we are providing each and every patient with the same, high-quality radiation oncology services they would receive if they travelled to our main campus in Buffalo.”
According to Dr. Vyas, these radiation oncology services include CT simulation for radiation treatment planning scans and multiple kinds of external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) — a technique that uses a TrueBeam linear accelerator to generate and deliver precise photon beams into tumors inside the body.
“We offer all the cutting-edge EBRT treatment techniques here in Oneida, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy and volumetric-modulated arc therapy, which we use in conjunction with image guidance in order to deliver increasing doses of radiation to the tumor with maximum normal-tissue sparing,” Dr. Vyas says. “We also offer stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy, which has emerged as a very effective and safe treatment modality for early-stage lung cancers and patients with oligometastatic disease in the brain, spine, liver, lung and other disease sites. With our respiratory motion management equipment, we are able to accurately target tumors that are prone to move as patients breathe. Motion-tracking strategies, such as gating or deep-inspiration breath hold, ensure that radiation is delivered accurately.”
The Roswell Park Advantage
In addition to receiving expert-level care from the program’s on-site Roswell Park radiation oncologist, medical dosimetrists and medical physicists, patients at the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center benefit from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s world-renowned resources and protocols, including:
- Guideline-driven care: Dr. Vyas and her team follow the same quality standards of Roswell Park in Buffalo, NY, including evidence-based radiation treatment guidelines and adherence to treatment planning protocols that carefully control radiation doses to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.
- Peer-reviewed treatment plans: Every patient’s radiation treatment plan is reviewed by a team of radiation oncologists at Roswell Park. In addition, all radiation oncology staff based in Oneida are trained on Roswell Park standards. This translates to exceptional National Cancer Institute-level radiation oncology care for residents of Central New York.
- Clinical trials: Oneida Health Cancer Care patients have access to clinical trials at Roswell Park, which offers one of the most robust early phase clinical trials programs in New York. These trials are explicitly centered around the development of new cancer treatments and provide opportunities for patients in every phase of the disease process to access, and potentially benefit from, new treatment modalities before they are available on the market.
- Tumor board: Providers at Oneida Health Cancer Care have access to Roswell Park’s Tumor Board — a multidisciplinary team of physicians that meets weekly in Buffalo to review cases that are either unique or challenging and to collectively recommend a course of action.
“Modern oncology care is an intricate, orchestrated symphony of different oncology specialties. However, we really go to great lengths to ensure that Oneida Health Cancer Care patients have access to highly specialized programs and to coordinate it so that as many of these subspecialties as possible are available within a single setting.”
— Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, Chief of Strategy, Business Development and Outreach at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Collaboration Across Locations
According to Gene Morreale, President and CEO at Oneida Health, the availability of these services and the seamless discourse between physicians in Buffalo and Oneida are the result of the system’s advanced telemedicine capabilities.
“Through the use of telemedicine, our team can communicate directly with Roswell Park specialists in Buffalo, including their tumor board,” Morreale says. “Roswell Park physicians are able to instantly see any relevant patient results and discuss personalized patient treatment plans based on their areas of expertise with our physicians here in Oneida. Access to an expanded network of knowledge helps ensure that we are accurately diagnosing patients and prescribing the most appropriate care based on National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) cancer care guidelines.”
Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, Chief of Strategy, Business Development and Outreach at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, agrees.
“Oneida Health Cancer Care patients have immediate access to the highest level of oncology care close to home,” Dr. Schwaab says. “We are happy we can offer patients state-of-the-art equipment and clinical and technical expertise that only an NCI-designated cancer center can provide. Our shared vision is making a big difference.”
Total Cancer Care in Oneida
Prior to the opening of the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center, Oneida Health launched the Oneida Health Cancer Care Medical Oncology Center in 2018 in affiliation with Roswell Park. The center, which houses 12 infusion suites, a hematology/oncology office and a telemedicine room, is directed by a Roswell Park-affiliated physician and offers evaluations, chemotherapy infusions, palliative medicine, specialized physical therapy, nutrition services and several cancer screening services. Oneida Health Cancer Care and Roswell Park opened the Dorothy G. Griffin Radiation Oncology Center one year later. “From the start, Oneida Health and Roswell Park’s leadership had a singular vision in providing a cohesive, high quality cancer care program which would deliver the presence of an NCI-designated cancer center in Oneida,” says Morreale. “The addition of radiation oncology to our already successful medical oncology program extends the treatment options we can provide for a more comprehensive approach to cancer care locally.”
Oneida Health is currently in the process of completing the third phase of their collaborative vision for cancer care in Central New York, expanding its outpatient imaging, the Alice M. Gorman Imaging Center. Upgrades, for instance, include the addition of a 3 Tesla MRI, a new PET CT machine, a nuclear medicine camera and a second 3D mammography machine. Additionally, Morreale notes, he wants to start focusing on initiatives around cancer prevention and early detection — initiatives that will allow cancer to be identified at its earliest stage and provide patients with the best possible outcomes.
“Our technology is the most current technology on the market. However, I think the biggest benefit to our patients is the expertise of the Roswell Park physicians who have been tasked with developing these treatment plans and administering the various treatments we offer. It is because of them that our patients are able to receive world-class cancer care directed by an NCI-designated cancer center right in Oneida.”
— Gene Morreale, President and CEO at Oneida Health
Recently, Oneida Health and the YMCA have teamed up to begin the process of developing survivorship services.
“It is important for us, as a health system, to support patients by providing them with access to holistic services, including exercise, spiritual care, yoga and a variety of other support services aimed at benefitting patients as they fight with what can be a very difficult situation,” Morreale says. “Research shows if you promote wellness and activity during and following a patient’s cancer treatment, they do better.”
Future plans call for further expansion of the survivorship program. Oneida Health plans to offer survivorship services on the first floor of a building across the street from the medical oncology center. While those renovations are underway, services will temporarily be offered out of a YMCA facility conveniently located on the Oneida Health campus.
Morreale highlights these offerings for cancer survivors as just one more example of the level of care and the breadth of services that Oneida Health Cancer Care and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center aim to offer patients in Central New York.
“We are dedicated and focused on providing the highest quality care and the best patient and family experience in the region,” Morreale says. “With Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as our partner and the high-caliber staff that we have working with us, I believe we are providing a very special service here in Oneida — a service that is only continuing to grow to meet the needs of our patients.”
To learn more about Oneida Health Cancer Care, visit oneidacancer.org.