SCHENECTADY — Ellis Medicine will debut a significant expansion of its cancer care services in 2021 as it creates a new treatment facility in partnership with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Ellis and Roswell announced the collaboration Tuesday.
A first-floor space at the main Ellis Hospital building on Nott Street will house a medical oncology/chemotherapy/infusion center when renovations are complete, and will provide access to advanced clinical trials of new treatments.
Founded in Buffalo in 1898, Roswell is the only comprehensive cancer center in the state north of New York City, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. Its affiliation with Ellis is part of a growing number of such relationships Roswell has established with local hospitals across New York state — the Roswell Park Care Network — to increase its reach and effectiveness. Its doctors will work with Ellis doctors and nurses to provide care in Schenectady.
Ellis Medicine CEO Paul Milton said the hospital must sometimes send patients as far as New York City or Boston if their needs can’t be met with Ellis’ current range of treatment options. “It’s limited, which is why we’re doing this, to bring in a partner with the reputation of Roswell Park,” he said.
The partnership will greatly expand cancer treatment options at Ellis, Milton said, and eventually will lead to an increase in staffing. Ellis expects to invest up to $4 million building the suite, which will include 12 infusion chairs and six exam rooms. The new facility should be able to host its first patients in the summer of 2021.
Dr. Thomas Schwaab, Roswell’s chief of strategy, business development and outreach, said Tuesday that the partnership with Ellis is the latest in a series for Roswell. Affiliations in Olean and Jamestown were first, followed more recently by partnerships with hospitals in Niagara Falls and Oneida, as well as a five-hospital system in Long Island.
“The goal is to say we are providing Roswell Park care in all of them,” he said.
The National Cancer Institute re-accredits comprehensive care centers every five years, Schwaab continued.
“One of the key metrics is enrollment into clinical trials,” he said. “Another big metric is our outreach into underserved populations, whether that’s ethnic or socioeconomic populations. We know that a large volume of [Schenectady-area] patients go to New York City, go to Boston for services that they don’t have here in town.”
The clinical trials of experimental therapies that Roswell will offer at Ellis will be in more advanced stages of research. Roswell limits early-stage clinical trials — those getting their first use in humans — to its facility in Buffalo; these Phase I trials typically are limited to people who have no other treatment options.
Later-stage clinical trials are shown to be more effective and less expensive for patients than standard-of-care treatment alone, Schwaab said, and provide a greater range of options for patients. Most children with cancer are treated in clinical trial settings, he added.
Gaining the ability to offer clinical trials at Ellis was a goal of the affiliation, Milton said.
Officials, masked up and spread out, were on hand Tuesday outside Ellis Hospital to hail the announcement.
Quality health care is one of the things that make a community desirable, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
A revitalized community is one of the things that attract affiliations such as these, said supermarket executive Neil Golub, a longtime supporter of Ellis who has long worked for the revitalization of Schenectady.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Rotterdam, said his own daughter’s work as a cancer researcher taught him the importance of research and treatment being performed side-by-side in a clinical setting.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said the medical care in a community defines its quality of life.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, alluded to Milton’s comment earlier that Ellis had gone more than a week without any COVID-positive inpatients.
“With everything happening in the world it’s great to see such good news coming out of Ellis Medicine,” Santabarbara said. “These past few months it has never been more apparent how important health care is to our community, how important it is that we support these services.”