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Twenty years ago, a child diagnosed with cancer faced a short life filled with toxic chemicals, long hospital stays, and multiple surgeries. Treatment took a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and the goal was remission rather than cure.
Today, advances in research and technology have changed how cancer is diagnosed and treated, and the results are dramatic: nearly 85 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of leukemia in young children, go on to adulthood. The overall five-year survival rate for childhood cancer is close to 80 percent.
The Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases was established to make those outcomes even brighter. Housed within the walls of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, it brings together education, research, and patient care for children with all forms of cancer, as well as blood diseases such as hemophilia and sickle cell anemia.
Using – and developing – the latest advances in treatment and research, staff members work together to provide the most effective therapies for each patient.
It’s a place where breakthrough research is rapidly applied through new treatments; where biochemistry, genetics, and immunology are intertwined with patient care and support services designed to preserve longevity and quality of life. Thanks to the Bass Center, innovative therapies are available to patients at Packard Children’s long before they become standards of care elsewhere.
“Our primary objective is to serve the needs of the child and family,” says Hugh O’Brodovich, MD, the Adalyn Jay Physician-in-Chief at Packard Children’s and the Arline and Pete Harman Professor and Chair of Pediatrics at Stanford. “The Bass Center has unified leadership and a programmatic approach, rather than being organized around departments. That flexible – and intentional – organizational structure allows Packard Children’s to link different specialties and provide fully integrated care for children with cancer.”
The Bass Center, which opened in 2009, combines both inpatient and outpatient services for ongoing, consistent access. In a bright and welcoming environment, children can receive infusions, chemotherapy, and laboratory tests. Inpatient rooms are designed to accommodate the family, so parents can remain with children receiving treatment throughout the course of their stay.
By combining services in one site, families avoid having to move about the hospital and can become comfortable with their environment and health care team.
“It’s a seamless structure that merges all aspects of patient care,” says Bass Center director Kathleen Sakamoto, MD, PhD. “Having experts from every specialty in proximity enhances what we do and allows us to coordinate services in a continuum of care.”
The center is organized into clinical teams focused on disease management in hematology, oncology, and stem cell transplantation, and a coordinated research group working in cancer biology. This organizing framework cuts back on wait times for patients and makes daily routines for staff more efficient.
Children and families benefit from this steamlined process at all phases of care. Multidisciplinary tumor boards meet weekly to discuss complex situations. Parents take part in a monthly Family Advisory Council, providing feedback to help the center improve its organization and processes. Expanded services focus on the unique challenges of survivorship. And annual get-togethers allow current and former patients to share experiences and build a strong support network.
“We treat the whole child and not just the disease,” says Pamela Simon, RN, patient care manager. “This means doing everything possible to ensure that children enjoy as normal a life as possible during treatment, and that top priority is given to quality of life during and after treatment. The family has a voice in how we provide that care.”
The Bass Center’s impact is felt well beyond the walls of Packard Children’s. Partnerships with several regional hospitals mean that families can receive Packard’s trademark expertise while remaining close to home through diagnosis and treatment. This wide geographic reach expands referral relationships and allows the center to serve diverse patient populations, which leads to better representation of ethnicities in clinical trials and broadens opportunities for education and outreach.
“Our relationships with other hospitals represent a strong commitment to the needs of children and families,” says Alexandria Combs, the center’s senior administrative director. “People don’t have to travel as far to benefit from access to innovative treatments and Packard’s deep experience in complex diagnoses.”
The Bass Center’s central location offers another unique benefit for the 160 newly diagnosed children and teens who arrive each year, according to Sakamoto. “We’re a dedicated children’s cancer center within a renowned children’s hospital. That gives us immediate access to all the resources and support services that any family might need.”
This article appeared in the Lucile Packard Children’s News publication in Fall 2012.