May 22, 2024
Kentucky invests to improve rural cancer care
Kentucky invests to improve rural cancer care
Rendering of planned Brown Cancer Center at UofL Health South Hospital

UofL Health announced plans to expand the reach of its Brown Cancer Center, building a new $25-million regional cancer center and Center for Rural Cancer Education and Research, with a specific emphasis on increasing access to comprehensive cancer care in south, central and western Kentucky. The cancer center will be located along the growing I-65 corridor on the campus of UofL Health – South Hospital, in Bullitt County. The project is made possible with recent funding support from the Kentucky General Assembly.

“I want to thank our state leaders for recognizing the importance of investing to improve access to innovative cancer care, education and research,” said Kim Schatzel, University of Louisville President. “Building this new regional site for our Brown Cancer Center extends opportunities to benefit from our expertise, research and innovative clinical trials. Kentuckians, particularly in our rural counties and mid-sized cities, need better access to those resources.”

Kentucky has the highest death rate of cancer in the U.S. (182.8 deaths per 100,000 total population), and almost 10,000 Kentuckians die of cancer each year. Twice as many Kentuckians died of cancer than of COVID-19 during the past three years, and cancer rates are expected to increase by 50% in the next 20 years. Cancer health care costs in Kentucky are $2.74 billion per year, while productivity losses from morbidity and early deaths in Kentucky cost an additional $3.1 billion per year.

“This will make a great addition to the newly opened hospital here in Bullitt County providing cancer research, training and treatment for the whole state,” said Kentucky Sen. Michael J. Nemes. “This location, along the I-65 corridor, will mean much easier access to quality cancer care for thousands of Kentucky residents. This is one of those transformational projects that will lead to better health outcomes, some that could mean the difference in life-or-death treatment.”

“As the new representative for the 26th District, I was extremely proud to vote on this budget which included $25 million for the cancer center on the UofL Health – South Hospital campus,” said Kentucky rep. Peyton Griffee. “Bringing the cancer center here is a game-changer for Bullitt County and so many more rural counties that will now have closer access to cancer treatment and research. The health and well-being of our citizens will continue to be a priority for me and our General Assembly.”

UofL Health announced plans to expand the reach of its Brown Cancer Center, building a new $25-million regional cancer center and Center for Rural Cancer Education and Research to access to comprehensive cancer care in south, central and western Kentucky. UofL Health photo.
UofL Health announced plans to expand the reach of its Brown Cancer Center, building a new $25-million regional cancer center and Center for Rural Cancer Education and Research to access to comprehensive cancer care in south, central and western Kentucky. UofL Health photo.

Subspecialty cancer care with comprehensive clinical trials programs and multidisciplinary clinics has been proved to reduce cancer deaths. Currently, there are no comprehensive cancer centers outside of Lexington and Louisville that offer multidisciplinary subspecialist care, clinical trials, access to state-of-the-art screening, and educational and support programs for cancer patients.

“Improving access to health care is our steadfast commitment to the commonwealth, especially in areas that are underserved,” said Tom Miller, UofL Health CEO. “I applaud our elected leaders for working with us to reduce barriers to cancer care for patients in our more rural communities.”

Patients from south, central and western Kentucky have relied on the Brown Cancer Center for a long time. In the last year alone, the Brown Cancer Center’s oncologists saw patients from nearly every Kentucky county, including more than 15,000 outpatient encounters from south, central and western Kentucky.

“The Brown Cancer Center has one unifying mission: To make cancer a disease of the past,” said Jason Chesney, director of the Brown Cancer Center. “We are getting closer to that goal and this new regional cancer center brings cutting-edge cancer care and lifesaving clinical trials closer to more Kentuckians.”

The new cancer center will serve as a network base for clinical trials, enhanced nursing/physician educational programs, cancer screening and outreach with partnering oncologists throughout the region. These academic pursuits will be integrated with the Brown Cancer Center’s comprehensive and multidisciplinary programs which attract cancer patients come from all over the United States for second opinions and innovative and highly effective treatment options that are not available at any other cancer centers in our region.

“After my diagnosis of a rare form of melanoma, my close-to-home treatment options were very limited,” said patient Chris Sutton, from Eddyville in rural western Kentucky. “My physician in Paducah referred me to Dr. Chesney. I was fortunate to be able to make the 400-mile round trip every three weeks, but other rural Kentuckians are not. This new center is an important first step to bringing the Brown Cancer Center’s world-class care to more Kentuckians. It will truly save lives.”

Initial plans include space for 20 infusion rooms, five exam rooms, oncology pharmacy and a diagnostic imaging suite. An education space will include a lecture hall, video conferencing space and conference rooms; training for oncology nurses and physicians in clinics; and offer rotations with community oncologists from south central and western Kentucky. A research laboratory for specimen processing and research space for data collection will support cancer clinical trials and translational research.

“For more than 30 years, the Kentucky Cancer Program has been UofL’s partner, the outreach and community screening arm of the Brown Cancer Center,” said Jeffrey Bumpous, interim dean of the UofL School of Medicine and UofL Physicians head and neck cancer surgeon. “Education, screening and outreach have always been an important part of our mission to serve the underserved. This new Center for Rural Cancer Education and Research will put us closer to community oncologists and underserved patient populations.”

A patient wellness center, in collaboration with the Kentucky Cancer Program, and a cancer screening program connecting primary care providers to innovative screening technologies will provide additional cancer outreach and education to south, central and western Kentucky.

Final design work is underway on the new cancer center, with a groundbreaking expected in the next 12 months. The anticipated opening will be in early 2026.

For more information on UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center visit, UofLHealth.org/BCC.

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