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University of Iowa News Release

 

April 3, 2008

UI Hospitals and Clinics recognized for complex, rare cancer care

Leaders of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City announced today that the state's only comprehensive academic health center is now designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Complex and Rare Cancers by Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa.

Such centers provide a full range of cancer care services, including inpatient care, cancer surgery and rehabilitation for oncology patients. Participation in the program demonstrates a commitment to helping patients make more informed health care decisions and achieving high-quality, affordable outcomes.

"Receiving this designation yet again confirms the high level of care we provide to the broad spectrum of our patients," said George Weiner, M.D., director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and the C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research. "Our NCI designation as a comprehensive cancer center speaks to the breadth and depth of our cancer research. We appreciate this recognition from Wellmark of our efforts and to the knowledge that comes from this research to reduce the suffering and deaths caused by cancer among Iowans."

Complex and rare cancers comprise approximately 15 percent of new cancer cases each year, making it difficult for consumers to locate or research an oncologist or surgical team that has experience treating the following complex and rare subtypes of cancer:

--acute leukemia (inpatient/non-surgical)
--bladder cancer
--bone cancer
--brain cancer - primary
--esophageal cancer
--gastric cancer
--head and neck cancers
--liver cancer
--ocular melanoma
--pancreatic cancer
--rectal cancer
--soft tissue sarcomas
--thyroid cancer (medullary or anaplastic)

"Of our more than two million Wellmark members, the number diagnosed each year with one of these complex or rare cancers is relatively small," said Rick Miller, D.O., medical director at Wellmark. "Members and providers may be uncertain where to turn for treatment. We believe it is important for them to know which facilities have the necessary experience and ability to deliver high-quality care for these unusual conditions.

"Most general oncologists and surgeons see very few patients with these types of cancer," Miller added. "Because the volume of these cases is so low, treatment and outcomes for these cancers can vary by physician and by facility. The Blue Distinction designation gives patients a resource to find providers who have ample experience in treating their particular form of cancer."

UI Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, site of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, earned the designation for having expertise in the following complex and rare cancers: bladder; brain-primary; esophageal; gastric; head and neck; pancreatic; bone; ocular melanoma; rectal; and thyroid (medullary and/or anaplastic).

UI Hospitals and Clinics also was named in 2006 as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care and a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery.

Facilities selected for Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers feature:

--multidisciplinary team input, including sub-specialty trained teams for complex and rare cancers and demonstrated depth of expertise across cancer disciplines in medicine, surgery, radiation oncology, pathology and radiology;

--ongoing quality management and improvement programs for cancer care;

--ongoing commitment to using clinical data registries and providing access to appropriate clinical research for complex and rare cancers; and

--sufficient volume of experience in treating rare and complex cancers.

Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers were developed in strategic collaboration with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and input from leading clinicians and professional organizations. Approximately 80 centers in 33 states received the designation.

Although the Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers have met criteria and standards for identification as "specialty centers," this does not imply any guarantee of a positive outcome or endorsement by Wellmark or the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Not all health plans provide benefits for all cancer treatments.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading edge research and educating the public about cancer.

Wellmark, Inc. (http://www.wellmark.com) does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than two million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu