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State Representative Constance Howard

Mini-internship highlights need for more state funding of minority cancer care

CMS member Nathaniel Holloway, MD, recently hosted State Rep. Constance “Connie” A. Howard (D-34th Dist.) for a tour of the high-tech but underfunded Cook County Radiation Oncology, SC. (CCRO) facility at Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.

They were joined by surgical oncologist Keith Dookeran, MD, Chairman of the Cancer Foundation for Minority and Underserved Populations.

The tour, which took place on Sept. 20, included an overview of AccuBoost partial breast irradiation technology, introduced into the radiation oncology program earlier this year.  AccuBoost is reportedly the first technology to use high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy to treat breast cancer non-invasively. It utilizes real-time mammography imaging to accurately target the radiation dose directly to the lumpectomy site, according Nucletron, a provider of radiation oncology, and Advanced Radiation Therapy (ART), a women’s health company that treats breast cancer.

Dr. Holloway, chief radiation oncologist at CCRO, brought this breast cancer treatment option to the Jackson Park community last May.  His mission is to serve a large indigent population that may not previously have had access to such a powerful treatment technique.

"We wanted to ensure that this new technology is available to all our patients who are most in need," stated Dr. Holloway. "To achieve this, we chose to place this equipment at our Jackson Park location."

The CCRO is the only radiation therapy facility on Chicago’s South Side.  Patients come to the clinic for intensive therapy five days a week. Because many have difficulty obtaining transportation on a daily basis, the CCRO offers transportation to and from the facility.  But the CCRO struggles with patient retention in addition to tracking down and following up on patients.

The greatest challenge, however, according to Dr. Holloway, is accessing funding, including funding for research.

Both physicians explained to Rep. Howard that state funding is very difficult to obtain although they continue to actively apply.  In addition, Drs. Holloway and Dookeran are seeking more stakeholders.  While Jackson Park receives funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), its recent application to the American Cancer Society (ACS) was denied.

The physicians’ next step may include sponsoring legislation that would provide funding for this underserved area.

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