SCHENECTADY — A wider array of cancer treatment options is now available in Schenectady, giving patients suffering with the dual effects of their disease and its treatment a local option for one-stop treatment.
Ellis Medicine and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center cut the ribbon Tuesday on the new facility, which brings not only new equipment and caregivers to Ellis Hospital but makes the specialized knowledge of the doctors at Roswell Park available for more complex cases.
“When I talk to folks about cancer care, one of the things I like to stress is, this is a team sport, a multidisciplinary specialty. We do not do this alone,” said Dr. Christopher Dolinsky, a radiation oncologist at Ellis for eight years.
“Up until recently, that was somewhat fragmented,” he said. “That is no longer the case. Now everything a patient needs is under one roof.”
New at Ellis is Dr. Tallat Mahmood, the medical director of the Roswell Park Care Network at Ellis Medicine. Her expertise in chemotherapy and immunotherapy will complement the radiation therapy that Dolinsky provides.
Mahmood previously practiced for 20 years at a Michigan cancer center and more recently taught for a year at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
She said the vision of making the Schenectady facility a mini-Roswell rather than a sort of satellite clinic made her want to work there.
“Unfortunately, a large majority of our patients or our population here in Schenectady County is underserved and underprivileged,” Mahmood said. “That’s why I came here. I decided, what could be more meaningful than that at this point in my life.”
The expanded cancer treatment facility at Ellis provides on-site access to multiple physicians; access to the latest treatments; biopsy; surgery; imaging; and chemo, immuno- and radiation therapy.
Ellis had recently acquired a linear accelerator and is now bringing it online for pinpoint stereotactic radiosurgery, first on brain tumors, later on tumors in the torso.
But beyond the equipment and expertise on site, Ellis cancer patients now have the benefit of the doctors and researchers at Roswell Park, outside Buffalo, Dolinsky said.
“The thing you have at Roswell that you don’t have here is, you have world experts in every specific disease,” he said. “So there’s the lung cancer team, there’s the breast cancer team, there’s the gastrointestinal cancer team, where all they do is research these diseases.
“We can present any and all of our patients now to them.”
That’s most likely to happen when a patient at Ellis has a rare cancer that the staff is less familiar with, or rare developments of a common cancer, Dolinsky said. Also, if the care team is not in unanimous agreement on a treatment plan, it can seek advice from Roswell.
Suffering patients will be the beneficiaries of all this, he said. Fully half his radiation patients also need chemotherapy, and have had to go elsewhere to get it.
This two-stop shuttle is uncomfortable at best and also can be difficult for patients who don’t own vehicles and don’t have money for transport.
“You can imagine how lousy people feel when they’re going through cancer treatment,” Dolinsky said. “Imagine the toll that takes.”
He made the same point as Mahmood about the financial resources of some patients.
“Do you know how challenging it is to get people who don’t drive to Albany, to Clifton Park for chemo? We have a lot of indigent patients. This is a game-changer.”
Reach John Cropley at [email protected], 518-395-3104 or @cropjohn on Twitter.