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Another Voice: Roswell Park-Oishei partnership elevates pediatric cancer care

By Dr. Candace Johnson and Dr. Kara Kelly

Childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death among children past infancy, although with advances in treatment, today more than 80% are cured.

For years, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center was limited in its ability to extend its nationally ranked bone marrow transplant program, or BMT, to children below the age of 5, unfortunately resulting in infants and toddlers with cancer having to leave Western New York for this specialized care.

When the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital opened in closer proximity to Roswell Park, we expanded our partnership with them and UBMD Pediatrics to create the Roswell Park Oishei Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Program. This afforded a BMT program that is now offered to children of all ages and an elevated level of service, treatment options and support for WNY’s youngest patients battling serious cancers and blood disorders.

Today, pediatric patients and their families are able to seamlessly move between outpatient chemotherapy/infusion treatments and radiation therapy at our Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center and inpatient care for surgeries, BMT and critical care at Oishei Children’s Hospital.

In addition to more comprehensive current treatment options, including precision medicine matched targeted therapies and leukemia-specific CAR T-cell therapy, our expertise in the immunotherapy field is being tapped to develop even more cutting-edge trials for pediatric and adolescent patients to ensure even more of our patients have access to new and emerging options – helping fulfill our vision for a regional center of excellence in pediatric cancer care.

Most noticeably, we have seen the impact of this joint venture by the significant decrease in the need for families with children with cancer and blood disorders having to leave the area for treatment to places like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan or Boston Children’s Hospital at Dana-Farber in Boston, to name a few. Patients from across upstate New York and Pennsylvania are being referred for care to our specialized team of experts. This is due in large part to our enhancement in treatment, specifically expanding our focus on blood-forming cancers requiring cellular and BMT therapies.

Our pediatric cancer care continues to strengthen and we cannot stress enough how vitally important it is to continue to support the care of cancer patients in your own backyard, especially entering into this season of giving.

Before you contribute to a national charity, know that odds are your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor’s child will be treated right here in this community and not places like Tennessee or New York City. Keep WNY pediatric cancer care strong – give locally.

We can do so much more together than we can do alone, and with community support, we are able to continue to provide world-class care for our pediatric patients fighting every day.

Candace Johnson, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Roswell Comprehensive Cancer Center. Kara Kelly, MD, is program director of the Roswell Park Oishei Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Program.

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