NEW PORT RICHEY — Patients in west Pasco and Hernando who want the expertise of the Moffitt Cancer Center but don't want to drive to Tampa won't have to anymore, thanks to a new partnership announced this week.
Moffitt is working with the US Oncology Network to begin what they say will be one of the largest networks of community-based oncology physicians. The project, which also will give patients access to more clinical trials locally, will begin with an office in New Port Richey and eventually expand to other sites across the state.
Officials expect to open the west Pasco operation early next year, though an exact location has yet to be determined.
"People want to get care close to home," said Dr. Gerald Robbins, president of the four-person group in New Port Richey, to be called Florida Cancer Associates. "The whole idea is to bring Moffitt quality out in the community. We've had a close relationship with Moffitt for years."
This venture complements the Moffitt Affiliate Network, which consists of 15 community hospitals and more than 400 oncologists in Florida who provide a seamless continuum of scientific innovation and patient care beyond Moffitt.
"The unique capabilities and best practices of both Moffitt and the US Oncology Network will be leveraged so patients in Florida will have access to unparalleled cancer care services closer to home and closer to their loved ones," said Dr. Roy Beveridge, chief medical officer of the US Oncology Network.
Officials with Moffitt say they could have just opened a satellite office in west Pasco but found a partnership more practical.
"Both companies brought strengths," said Jack Kolosky, Moffitt's chief operating officer.
He declined to say what kind of investment the partners were making, but said few new jobs would be created in the initial stages. However, there would be a huge benefit to patients.
"Moffitt has wonderful basic research," Robbins said. "They have clinical trials for a whole range of medicines that we may be able to bring into the community."
Kolosky said the partnership, which will provide outpatient services, would not compete with area hospitals.
"For the most part, patients would be hospitalized in local communities," he said.
Moffitt officials say that the Tampa-based cancer center draws patients from all of Florida's 67 counties. The partnership will enable more of them to stay home.
"We at Moffitt pride ourselves with having a lasting commitment to the prevention and cure of cancer, working tirelessly in the areas of patient care, research and education to advance one step further in fighting this disease," said Dr. Alan List, executive vice president and physician-in-chief of Moffitt. "Working with the US Oncology Network will help us move this mission forward."
The US Oncology Network is supported by McKesson Specialty Health, a division of McKesson Corp., a physician-driven firm based north of Houston.
Moffitt Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center — a designation that recognizes Moffitt's excellence in research and contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt currently has 14 affiliates in Florida, one in Georgia, one in Pennsylvania and two in Puerto Rico.