A new partnership between two cancer clinics has averted a local shortage of cancer drugs.
Cancer Center of Guam oncologist Dr. Sam Friedman said the center's chemotherapy drug supplier stopped doing business last month, with only a week's notice, and left the clinic without a supplier.
The clinic for years had been doing business with Florida Infusion, one of the largest suppliers of chemotherapy drugs in the U.S., and had a great working relationship with the firm.
At the time, Friedman said it was difficult to find a new supplier to work with Guam since many don't recognize the island as part of the U.S. And those who will work with the clinic charge too much.
"The prices are so high that you can't do business," he said.
And added to the high drug prices are the transportation costs, which average about $500 per shipment, Friedman said.
The clinic ordered a large shipment before Florida Infusion closed, but the supply was dwindling, Friedman said.
There are about 150 cancer patients receiving treatment at the clinic, with the patients taking different drugs to fit their needs, he said.
Cancer Center of Guam and Island Cancer Center recently announced the formation of Pacific Cancer Care Alliance, a new organization that unites cancer care specialists and stakeholders under one name to build teamwork and coordinate care for patients with cancer.
Working with Island Cancer Center, the clinic was able to find another supplier.
The clinics will remain independent entities, but will work together to improve timing and efficiency for scheduling and treatment of patients, attracting additional resources locally, and supporting local nonprofits involved in cancer awareness and prevention.
"Cancer care is very complex, and each patient's treatment plan is necessarily different and needs individualization," said Friedman.
A patient's cancer treatment plan may include any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and newer modalities of immunotherapy and specific genetic therapy, he said.
"Our goal is better directed, efficient and coordinated care for less stress to the patient and their families leading to better outcomes," he said.
"This Alliance is a new innovation on Guam in how we deliver patient care," said Dr. John Rosoff, co-founder of ICC. "We're erasing unnecessary borders between our clinics."
The clinics are located adjacent to one another, which will simplify transportation issues for patients and coordination and consultation between specialists, Rosoff said.
"And we are working with local nonprofits involved in education and patient services as we all have an important part in a patient's treatment journey. Similar cancer care alliances exist in Seattle and several other U.S. cities renowned for cancer care," he said.
Creating an alliance establishes common goals for changing and improving care, working as a team to recruit other needed specialists, and providing a more robust support system for patients such as counselors, patient navigators, financial assistance and cancer screening programs. Also, the alliance will incorporate top centers in the U.S. and worldwide to provide the best possible care where each specific cancer type is optimally treated.
"The alliance gives us the opportunity to be stronger and better," said Rosoff. "We each have our connections to other specialists, researchers, and universities. A partnership gives us the chance to better leverage the resources available to us to bring better cancer care to the people of Guam. We've all had friends and family affected by cancer, so that's what really matters to all of us."