The UCHealth Cancer Center – Cherry Creek combines the specialist cancer care of Colorado’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with the convenience of UCHealth’s new Cherry Creek Medical Center.
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The new UCHealth cancer center has been serving infusion patients since late June and opened its doors this week to a wide variety of cancer patients. Leading the cancer-care team is Dr. Scott Kono, the new cancer center’s medical director. Kono, a Colorado Springs native, joins UCHealth as a University of Colorado School of Medicine faculty member a decade after completing his oncology fellowship at the institution. He returns as a seasoned medical oncologist and hematologist whose experience has run the gamut of cancer care and treatment.
Kono will care for patients and coordinate with specialists to provide onsite care that harnesses the deep expertise of University of Colorado Cancer Center experts in gynecologic, urologic, lung, blood, breast, skin (including Mohs surgery), gastrointestinal, and other cancers as well as oncologic surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, precision medicine, and clinical trials.
“For a person with cancer, the best care takes a village – a real team approach,” Kono said. “We all lean on each other and leverage each other’s experience to help the patient.
“At the UCHealth Cherry Creek Medical Center, we will be able to provide exceptional cancer care with the convenience and personal care of a community-based clinic, Kono says. Additionally, having access to subspecialists can be pivotal in a patient’s care.
Kono and colleagues will be working in a facility designed to optimize its unique urban location. Among other features, the new space features onsite radiation therapy as well 10 private and two living-room-style semiprivate infusion bays, the latter with three chairs in each room. The overarching goal is to avail the breadth and depth of care familiar to the University of Colorado Cancer Center, which UCHealth patients have accessed through UCHealth Cancer Care – Anschutz Medical Campus and, more recently, UCHealth Cancer Center – Highlands Ranch, to patients living in Cherry Creek and surrounding neighborhoods.
Patients at the new center can tap into two of the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s defining features: multidisciplinary clinics (also known as tumor boards) and clinical trials.
Multidisciplinary clinics are weekly gatherings of cancer experts who consider a patient’s case history, scans, and pathology results and jointly recommend treatment paths. As an example, lung cancer multidisciplinary clinics involve medical oncologists, lung cancer specialists, radiologists, oncological surgeons, radiation oncologists, and pathologists. It’s a combination of specialized expertise that few institutions can bring to bear.
“Our patients will definitely have access to subspecialty tumor conferences, which is great,” Kono said.
Clinical trials will give UCHealth Cherry Creek Cancer Center patients access to the latest experimental cancer therapies being studied at the University of Colorado Cancer Center researchers. As of late August, those researchers were involved in 272 cancer-related trials related to diverse cancers. In addition to eight oncology exam rooms, the new cancer center has small conference rooms where physicians and patients can discuss clinical-trial options.
“We’ll have the advantages of the clinical trials and of CU School of Medicine cancer researchers pushing the envelope of patient care and improving outcomes,” Kono said.
Cancer center patients will also be able to tap into Cherry Creek Medical Center resources including social workers, psychologists, nutritional counselors and others.
All supportive services will be available as they are in other locations.
Kono added what he considers to be as important a feature as any other in cancer care: collaboration with patients’ primary care physicians. Cancer care is an extension of primary care – not a replacement of it, Kono says.
“The primary care doctor is part of the team,” Kono said. “We want to keep the primary care doctor 100% on board with everything that’s going on. They’re still taking care of all the other aspects of the patient’s health.”
An added benefit of doing that, Kono says, is that the patient feels anchored with his or her familiar primary care physician amid waves of cancer specialists and treatments.
In all, Kono says, the goal is to meld a local, easily accessible medical practice with the quality of care only an academic medical center can deliver.
“We want patients to feel like they’re getting individualized, community-based, convenient-yet-excellent medical care,” Kono said. “That’s what’s great about Cherry Creek – it’s the best of both worlds.”