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Shawnee Mission Health Now A Member Of MD Anderson Cancer Network

Dan Margolies
KCUR 89.3

Shawnee Mission Health has become the 17th member nationwide of the MD Anderson Cancer Network, joining forces with one of the top cancer centers in the United States.

The affiliation follows a year-long certification process by MD Anderson and is a big leap forward for Shawnee Mission Health’s cancer center, which opened not quite four years ago.

Membership in the network will allow Shawnee Mission to draw on the clinical guidelines, resources and expertise of MD Anderson, especially in rare and complex cases, and at some point participate in MD Anderson's clinical trials.

Shawnee Mission joins two Missouri cancer centers, Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia and Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau, as the only members of the MD Anderson network in the two-state area.

“We need collaboration to advance every level of cancer care and that’s why we’re here,” Dr. William Murphy, chairman of MD Anderson’s physician network, said at a news conference Wednesday announcing the affiliation.

The affiliation is the latest development in the highly competitive cancer care marketplace in the Kansas City area. A wave of mergers, partnerships and expansions over the last few years has transformed that marketplace beginning in March 2011, when the University of Kansas Cancer Center announced that it would join forces with the Kansas City Cancer Center, which was affiliated with U.S. Oncology.

Since then, the area has witnessedan explosion of developments in the cancer care arena:

  • In July 2012, the National Cancer Institute certified the KU Cancer Center as the 67th federally designated cancer center in the nation.
  • In June 2013, North Kansas City Hospital and the KU Cancer Center announced a partnership in oncology services.
  • In January 2014, Shawnee Mission Cancer Center opened its doors.
  • In February 2014, Truman Medical Centers opened the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Center after receiving a $2.3 million gift from the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation.
  • In September 2014, HCA Midwest Health announced it was establishing the Sarah Cannon Cancer Network of Excellence.
  • In January 2015, Olathe Medical Center announced plans to build a new cancer center on its campus.
  • In February 2015, Liberty Hospital and Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City announced a cancer-services agreement.
  • In February 2015, HCA Midwest Health said it would open a comprehensive cancer center near Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, Missouri.
  • In May 2017, Saint Luke’s Health System signed an agreement with Washington University in St. Louis granting patients access to clinical trials through the university’s National Cancer Institute-supported research.
  • In August 2017, the National Cancer Institute approved the addition of Children’s Mercy Hospital to the KU Cancer Center’s research consortium.

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year, including 14,400 in Kansas and 34,400 in Missouri. 

Those numbers account for the profusion of mergers, partnerships, affiliations and new construction in the area focused on cancer care, says Becca Bell, administrator of oncology services at Shawnee Mission.

“The straightforward, honest answer is that there’s that much cancer,” says Bell, who was diagnosed with breast cancer herself nearly two years ago and is now clear after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “ … None of this would be occurring if there weren’t the continued diagnoses and the increase of cancer in our communities.”

MD Anderson, based in Houston, is one of 45 so-called comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked it No. 1 in cancer care in the United States. Last year, its 1,600 specialists and subspecialists saw about 135,000 cancer patients.

Before opening its cancer center, Shawnee Mission had offered inpatient oncology services but farmed out outpatient services to an independent practice. At the time, Bell says, Shawnee Mission was diagnosing about 1,000 cancer cases annually. Now it’s up to around 1,300.

Bell says the affiliation with MD Anderson provides “a kind of bat phone that we can immediately call down and get information or share information back and forth but still treat the patient locally.”

“The patient does not have to leave Kansas City,” she says.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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