Governor Parris N. Glendening joined leaders of the University of Maryland, its School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical System today to unveil plans for a new Teleoncology Network --- the state's newest tool to fight cancer. The goal of the network is to address the high rates of cancer in both urban and rural areas of Maryland by increasing access to top cancer experts and the latest, most promising therapies.
"This is one example of our comprehensive plan to put Governor Glendening 's bold vision into action in the fight against cancer," says Donald E. Wilson, M.D., M.A.C.P., Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"Teleoncology is an innovative way to use technology to move cancer care and prevention to the next level of excellence," says Governor Glendening. "It will enable doctors from all across Maryland to consult visually and receive guidance from world-class cancer specialists. Every Maryland citizen, including those in rural areas, will have access to the most advanced cancer care available. Teleoncology is just one example of how our $1 billion investment in fighting cancer and saving lives will improve health care for all of our children and our families."
The Governor's $1 billion, 10-year plan includes $15 million a year to augment the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center's efforts in research, cancer treatment, prevention and education. The plan calls for the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center to establish a statewide cancer network and expand its multi-disciplinary patient care and research programs that rapidly take advances from the laboratory to the bedside. The use of teleoncology is one component of that network.
"We are counting on the support of the General Assembly to implement the Governor's initiatives. His plan, which will make Maryland a national leader in conquering cancer, will benefit families coping with cancer today and those who will face this devastating disease in the future," says David J. Ramsay, DM, D.Phil, President of the University of Maryland.
"Our goal is to reduce death and disability from cancer by improving access to the full range of high-quality cancer prevention and treatment services," says Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D., CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center.
"In spite of the fact that Maryland is one of the most affluent states in the nation served by two superb academic health centers, we have the sixth highest incidence and death rate from cancer. The sooner we can start these initiatives, the sooner we can make more progress against this devastating disease," Dr. Schimpff adds.
"We will focus our efforts on the most common cancers among Maryland residents, those associated with tobacco use, and those having a disproportionate impact on minority, rural, and underserved populations. The priority areas are: lung/esophageal, breast, prostate, oral/head and neck, colorectal and cervical cancers," according to Sanford A. Stass, M.D., Director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Program in Oncology and Director of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center will use funds from the Governor's tobacco initiative in four main areas:
Cancer has a disproportionate impact on minority and rural residents of Maryland, and the Teleoncology Network, which was demonstrated at the news conference today, will link the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore with several sites around the state. Connections are set up so far with the Shore Health System's Regional Cancer Center in Easton and at the Western Maryland Health System's Regional Cancer Center in Cumberland. The Western Maryland Area Health Education Center (AHEC), located in Cumberland, is also linked to the system.
"We are very excited about the potential for this network," says Claudia R. Baquet, M.D. M.P.H., Associate Dean for Policy and Planning at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "It will enable many patients and health care professionals to benefit from the expertise at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center without leaving their local community to travel to Baltimore," adds Dr. Baquet, who is also Director, Program in Cancer Prevention and Control Research at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
The system will be used for consultation about patient cases and also for continuing medical education, opening the door for more treatment options to people around the state who face a diagnosis of cancer. Not only does the system enable physicians around the state to confer with a multi-disciplinary team of experts at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center using real-time audio and video, it also allows transmission of x-rays, pathology slides and other diagnostic tools.
The cancer center's specialists, who are all on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, see patients as part of a multi-disciplinary team. For example, a person with lung cancer will meet at the same time with a medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and other experts who sub-specialize in treating lung cancer. The network will make the same type of comprehensive expertise available to doctors and their patients throughout Maryland.
So far, Shore Health System's Regional Cancer Center has used the teleoncology network twice to link to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. Those conferences have focused on gynecologic and breast cancers.
The teleoncology system was developed through a partnership that includes the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Bell Atlantic, VTEL, and Data Solutions Group.
The system uses a combination of three digital phone lines (ISDN) to transmit audio and video images between two or more sites. Each site is equipped with a TV monitor and a miniature camera, enabling doctors at each end to hear and see each other simultaneously. A separate document camera can be used to send x-rays and pathology slides during the consultation.
Future plans call for expanding the network statewide. In the next phase, there will also be additional technology to allow the transmission of other types of diagnostic tests.