UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Named a Survivorship Center of Excellence

Dr. Patricia Ganz
Dr. Patricia Ganz is helping lead a new study that ultimately aims to help patients make better-informed decisions about cancer treatment.

UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center has been named a LIVESTRONG(tm) Survivorship Center of Excellence by the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) and will join a network of five leading centers nationwide that will work together to address the needs of the growing number of cancer survivors in the United States.

A five-year, $1.7-million grant from the foundation will establish UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center Survivorship Program, a member of the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network. The new program will build on the Jonsson center's two decades of survivorship research and put into place critical clinical programs to help cancer survivors transition into their disease-free lives, said Dr. Patricia Ganz, head of cancer prevention and control research at the Jonsson Cancer Center and director of the new survivorship center.

"This is a great opportunity for us to organize all of UCLA's existing survivorship programs and marry our research with new clinical programs that will allow us to coordinate follow-up care for cancer survivors," Ganz said. "Oncologists often have no idea what happens to patients when they finish treatment. Patients go back to their primary care providers and there are vital issues that need to be addressed that sometimes aren't communicated. Survivors often don't know what kind of surveillance and follow-up care they need to monitor for disease recurrence or any late effects that may result from their cancer treatment."

The formation of the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network was announced today by LAF officials. The network is an invitation-only collaborative partnership among the LAF, National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers at leading medical institutions nationwide and their community affiliates. Working together, network member institutions will address topics such as critical survivorship research, new interventions and progress in insurance reimbursement in order to provide the most effective survivorship care. This progressive, comprehensive support for survivorship is designed to help people living with cancer deal with the emotional, practical and physical issues they will face.

In addition to the UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, network members include:

  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Seattle, Wash.)
  • University of Colorado Cancer Center (Denver, Colo.)
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, N.Y.)
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, Mass.)

"Extended cancer survival is a relatively new phenomenon, so the current pace of research and development of effective models of care lags behind the need," said Caroline Huffman, LAF survivorship network officer. "To help accelerate the pace of progress in addressing the needs of the growing survivor community, we established the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network to serve as comprehensive, one-stop sources of information, care and services for cancer survivors, family members and service providers."

More than 10 million Americans are living with cancer today, Ganz said. As the number of people surviving cancer continues to rise and as their challenges grow in magnitude and complexity, an increasing need exists for new models of survivorship care and research.

"Joining this network is the natural evolution of our longstanding commitment to cancer survivorship research and excellence in health care delivery," Ganz said. "The Jonsson Cancer Center was among the first in the nation to establish a division of cancer control, and has had a research program focused on patients and survivors for the past decade. This grant is expected to help fulfill UCLA's unrealized potential to focus on the clinical care of cancer survivors and to promote interaction in the Los Angeles region and within the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network."

In addition to the 2,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients seen by UCLA oncologists each year, the center of excellence grant will provide support for a formal collaboration between the Jonsson Cancer Center and Kaiser Permanente Southern California, HealthCare Partners Medical Group and Torrance Memorial Medical Center. This will allow Ganz and other Jonsson Cancer Center investigators to work with their collaborating partners to improve the quality of cancer survivorship care within the greater Los Angeles region. It is also expected to foster a wider range of cancer survivorship studies in different systems of health care with a diverse population of cancer survivors.

"Solving the problem of how best to deliver coordinated and caring follow-up services within existing health care settings will not be simple," Ganz said. "It will require teamwork among clinicians, researchers, health care executives, community leaders, survivors and others."

In addition to coordinating UCLA's various survivorship programs, the grant will allow Ganz and her team to develop community-based programs with affiliated partners to facilitate coordinated post-treatment follow-up for patients who are considered disease-free. An outpatient clinic will be established at UCLA for survivors - UCLA patients and those treated in the community - to provide consultation and follow-up care. The clinic will be staffed by a family nurse practitioner supervised by Ganz and Dr. Jacqueline Casillas, associate director of the new survivorship center and a pediatric oncologist specializing in the care of long-term childhood cancer survivors.

A social worker will perform an intake assessment and provide follow-up as needed. Cancer survivors also will get the opportunity to participate in leading-edge survivorship research being conducted at the Jonsson Cancer Center. Such research, Ganz said, is vital to advance knowledge and improve care. Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, a professor in the community health sciences department in the UCLA School of Public Health, will serve as associate director for community outreach and will help the UCLA-LIVESTRONG Cancer Survivorship Center of Excellence reach the many community organizations in the region that provide psychosocial and other support services to cancer patients and survivors.

A founding member of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, Ganz has for the last 20 years conducted pioneering research focused on improving the quality of life and quality of care outcomes for cancer survivors. Additionally, she has mentored a generation of researchers who work collaboratively to advance knowledge in this expanding field. Her leadership and research has established the Jonsson Cancer Center's survivorship research program into one of the strongest in the country.