According to the American Cancer Society’s first Global Cancer Facts & Figures report there will be 27 million new cancer cases and 17.5 million cancer deaths globally in 2050, ‘due to the growth and aging of the population’ as well as lifestyles. Sadly, the lack of access to medical care is one reason for the gap in cancer survival between economically developed nations and developing countries, the report adds.
New cancer centres to be set up internationally by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in a partnership with GE Healthcare could help to alleviate pressures from healthcare providers within such areas. Their aim is to combine UPMC’s strength in developing and operating oncology centres that offer advanced diagnosis and radiotherapy treatments close to patients’ homes, and GE’s expertise in the provision of the necessary medical equipment.
UPMC already operates one of the largest cancer programmes in the USA, serving 30,000 newly diagnosed patients annually in over 40 centres in western Pennsylvania, and also runs two cancer centres in Ireland.
GE Healthcare will conduct assessments to determine which markets are most appropriate for cancer centres. Key factors will include the availability of a suitable local partner, regulatory requirements and patient volumes. Once a market is selected, UPMC will negotiate definitive agreements and take responsibility, with the local partners, for the construction, ownership and operation of those centres.
Meike Lerner of European Hospital, asked Charles E Bogosta, Executive Vice President University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC), President, International and Commercial Services Division, and Jim Torres, General Manager, Global Funding Operations, GE Healthcare, about the background and aims of the project.
‘About a year ago, GE and UPMC came together to tackle a common problem: to improve the level of cancer care around the world,’ Charles Bogosta explained. ‘We immediately came up with a business structure. Our aim is to establish at least 25 cancer centres internationally within the next 10 years. In these, we’d like to provide the opportunity of high quality cancer care that we offer in the US and Ireland. UPMC would lead the management side and the development of clinical protocols and pathways.’
Described their collaboration as a ‘win-win’ situation, Jim Torres explained: a win for UPMC as the clinical operator and a win for the countries where the new centres will bridge the lack of services. ‘UPMC will bring best quality clinical knowledge and GE the state-of-the-art medical diagnostic technologies. Together we can bring solutions for a level of quality of care that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.’
The partnership is a continuation of a 20-year relationship between GE and UPMC, Charles Bogosta pointed out. ‘In Western Pennsylvania, where we planned 14 new cancer centres, GE provided all the technologies they currently use. So it was natural to take this relationship oversees, as we did in Ireland. Now we’ve formalized that and are levering GE’s market intelligence and international expertise. This is very complementary.’
90% of oncological care occurs in smaller communities, Charles Bogosta pointed out. ‘Our model is to settle the centres in these. Going in to several countries, we’ve found great interest in this specific concept – every country in the world could be a candidate for this. It has to be customized wherever we go. As yet, we just don’t know whether we will place one or more centres in a country; discussions with the countries are very preliminary right now.’
Speaking of project financing, Charles Bogosta said this will mainly be handled by their local partners – i.e. hospital companies and governments. ‘With the current economic situation things are going a bit slower than in other times. But so far, discussions with our partners are very optimistic. Oncology is targeted as a very high priority in every country.’
Asked whether the centres will be centrally linked, he explained that, although they will be local, each will be able to make the most of its international background and share education and research. ‘We already have many centralised processes that will bring efficiency to all these locations.’
Finally, Jim Torres added: ‘This project is going along with our strategy for globalization and becoming local in the global markets. GE Healthcare is already in over a hundred countries, so we have a strong understanding of local markets, know the key players, and can provide that intelligence to UPMC and find the right locations and partners. GE is a global player in providing healthcare solutions; we have a broad spectrum of products, so we provide the global footprint – the healthcare solutions – whilst UPMC brings the clinical expertise.’