Officials from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center joined together at the latter campus Friday morning to announce a new collaboration which both sides say will make specialized services more accessible to patients in Niagara Falls and Niagara County. It's a region where, experts say, cancer rates have increased by 36 percent over the past four decades.
The first phase of the new collaboration is to establish a jointly-operated Thoracic Center within Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where services from the screening stage to post-treatment support will be available to patients dealing with lung cancer or other chest malignancies.
"For people of Niagara County to have more ease of access for early detection, for prevention or ultimately treatment here, we think will undoubtedly extend the lives of those individuals who are going through various types of lung cancer," said Joseph Ruffolo, president and chief executive officer of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
Lung cancer rates in Niagara County are among the highest in New York State. According to the New York State Health Department, lung cancer is the leading cause of death among women in Niagara County and the second-leading cause of death among men there.
Ruffolo, when speaking of rising local lung cancer rates, pointed to several environmental sources which may influence that rate, including former operating smokestacks from past industries, chemical plants, the Love Canal site and six other EPA Superfund sites.
Niagara Falls is also one of the region's more economically challenged regions and Roswell Park officials also recognize the trouble many may have traveling to Buffalo for treatments. Early detection and treatment increases the chances for success and Dr. Candace Johnson, president and CEO of Roswell Park, look forward to bringing critical services closer to the reach of Niagara County residents.
"They're doing phenomenal things with molecular testing to look and see whether there are changes or things that could predict whether you're at a higher incidence for a certain kind of cancer," Johnson said.
This partnership with Niagara Falls Memorial Medica Center is the third clinical program Roswell Park is undertaking in Niagara County. It also runs a community practice in Niagara Falls and a satellite infusion site in the Town of Wheatfield.