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New Cancer Center Aims to Improve Treatment Experience for Sickest Patients

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The Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers opened its doors to the first round of patients this week. It’s a new facility designed specifically for patients with blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

“This was built with the idea of creating a much better patient experience for this particular group of patients because they are so ill and spend so much time in the outpatient setting. The facility is state-of-the-art in terms of the technology as well as the design of the facility,” said Dr. Stan Marks, chairman of the UPMC Cancer Center.

In some cases, these patients visit the doctor’s office daily for weeks or months at a time, and stay for hours, versus quicker 30 minute or so visits. Marks said the center aims to make their experience less formal and clinical, and more comfortable,  like a home environment, complete with room for family members or friends in some treatment areas.

“There are refreshments and drinks, there’s incredible technology where each patient’s chair will have a screen where they can access the internet, they can watch television, they can watch movies, they can play games, and they can access patient education materials to learn about their disease or the treatment they’re receiving,” he said.

The center is decked out in calming colors, natural light, a terrace for outside access, and even a putting green. But, it is still a medical facility, offering the care needed

“We will be offering access to a variety of clinical trials for blood cancers and in the Lemieux Center patients will be able to receive blood transfusions, chemotherapy, what we call biologic agents, and ultimately out-patient stem-cell transplants,” said Marks.

The center will serve and estimated 25,000 patients a year. It will be open 12 hours, 7 days a week, to help reduce visits to the emergency room.

The facility is named for Pittsburgh Penguins owner and cancer survivor Mario Lemieux, whose foundation donated $3.5 million for the creation of the center. That donation capped a 5-year $100,000 million capital campaign at UPMC Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute that was launched in 2005 by the Hillman Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation with support from UPMC.