Would watching researchers hard at work to find individualized treatments give cancer patients hope to keep fighting their disease? Would seeing cancer patients bravely coping inspire researchers to strive more vigorously to find effective cancer treatments? The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus aims to find out.
Its massive new 1.1 million-square-foot, $750 million cancer hospital opens Dec. 15. Along with the latest technology, it also will include glass-walled research laboratories on every patient floor. Patients can view the labs as they walk by—and researchers will see them in return.
“Patients will look in and see research going on in real time, and it's hoped that will be inspirational to patients dealing with this disease,” said Dr. David Schuller, vice president for medical center expansion and outreach at Wexner. “Disease, I suspect, becomes an abstract thing, and researchers can become detached with how it affects people's lives. We want physician researchers to be looking out so they'll see people fighting for their lives.”
The 21-story, 306-bed cancer hospital is the largest piece of the medical center's $1.1 billion ProjectONE expansion. It also has the longest name: The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center- Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, aka OSUCC-James, or merely “The James.”
James, who served for 35 years as medical director of the Columbus Cancer Clinic, beginning in 1921, led a decades-long campaign to build a cancer hospital in Columbus. He died in 2001.
Solove was a local developer whose father was a patient of Dr. James. Schuller said he remains “to date, our largest philanthropic supporter.” He died in 2011.
The new hospital will replace a facility that opened in 1990. On alternating floors, The James will have either a “wet lab,” conducting molecular genetic research, or a “dry lab” where medical informatics researchers will analyze data produced by molecular cancer research, Schuller said.
“It's a critically important component of the overall research and one where there has to be expertise,” Schuller said of the emphasis on informatics.
The new hospital has already had a positive impact on recruitment, Schuller said. OSU usually attracts about 10 new cancer clinician-researchers a year, but Schuller said it recruited 43 two years ago and 41 last year.
“It's been a tremendous infusion and that will continue,” he said.
The facility also will house designated care-team education areas and offices to support the staff required to conduct clinical trials. Only about 5% of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials. The National Cancer Institute has set a goal to push that number to 20% patient participation at cancer centers receiving its financial support, Schuller said. The clinical trial participation rate at the existing James hospital is 27%, he said.
“There will be increased opportunities for researchers and patients to have dialogue,” Schuller said. “Time will tell if this will become the design de jour.”
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