SCOTTSDALE — The Mayo Clinic has 3,000 to 4,000 physicians and researchers across the United States, about 1,000 of them working to discover new ways to predict, prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
“It's a deep resource,” said Dr. Ruben Mesa, chairman of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Arizona.
And it's one that now is more accessible to Yuma-area residents through an affiliation between Mayo and Yuma Regional Medical Center announced in November. It expands the care available for cancer patients in Yuma even as YRMC moves forward to develop a local cancer center.
The affiliation is not just with Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus in Phoenix-Scottsdale but Mayo Clinic nationwide that also includes the resources of the other two campuses in Rochester, Minn., and Jacksonville, Fla., and such collaborative partners as Arizona State University, Mesa noted.
Collectively designated a Comprehensive Care Center by the National Cancer Institute, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center with its three campuses is a leader in translating discoveries into effective improvements in patient care.
That can range from world-class surgeons and cutting-edge treatments on campus to the availability of consultations, education and outreach to members of Mayo's network, including YRMC and Yuma physicians. The work being conducted at Mayo also is seeking better ways to diagnose cancer and even research into who gets the disease, why and what might prevent it, Mesa said.
Key areas of cancer research at Arizona's campus are genomics, blood cancers, breast and lung cancer, immunotherapy and clinical trials for all malignancies. Its bone marrow transplant program has doubled in size and last year performed more than 200 transplants. And Mayo Arizona is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of a proton beam therapy facility that currently is under construction.
“Our goal is to try to make a difference in cancer care across the spectrum,” Mesa said.
Much of Mayo's relationship with YRMC is to make its expertise available to patients in Yuma without their having to travel, said Dr. Russell Heigh, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Southwest. It also will make cutting-edge therapies available to Yuma patients faster.
A patient in Yuma may benefit from surgery at Mayo with a surgeon who focuses on a specific cancer using cutting-edge advances. Or the patient may benefit from the proton beam therapy.
But in many cases, the patient in Yuma can benefit from Mayo's expertise without having to make a three-hour drive, Heigh said.
Mayo Clinic network offers a variety of tools to enable Yuma physicians to interact virtually on challenging cases, he said. They include:
• eConsults — provides access to a Mayo Clinic specialist who can answer focused questions about a patient's diagnosis, therapy or care management plan.
• AskMayoExpert — a Web-based database that shares Mayo's clinical expertise for various scenarios.
“It's helpful to reaffirm a diagnosis or treatment plan,” Heigh said. “It uses technology for the more efficient care of the patient without the time and cost of travel. When the patient comes, he really has to come for an advanced procedure.”
Heigh even sees a time when clinical research and medical trials being conducted through Mayo Clinic will involve Yuma patients.
Of the 450 physicians at Mayo Clinic Arizona, 420 are specialists and many have research projects, he said. “Certainly those research projects will benefit Yuma.”
Mayo Clinic in Arizona opened in 1987 in Scottsdale as a premier academic medical center in the Southwest, integrating medical research, education and outpatient care. In addition to the outpatient clinic, the site includes the Samuel C. Johnson Research Building and Mayo Clinic Collaborative Research Building that house scientists, trainees and students using molecular biological, cell biological and genetic approaches to understand and treat cancer, immune disorders and other diseases.
In 1989, Mayo opened a hospital at a site in Phoenix, where the Mayo Clinic Specialty Building for outpatient care also is located. The proton beam therapy facility is now under construction next to the hospital. The $300 million facility also will consolidate the clinic's cancer center under one roof and allow for expansion as Mayo Clinic Arizona continues to grow.
“It's been amazing to be part of its journey from a small clinic,” said Heigh, who has been with the clinic since 1987.