New Models of Health Care Delivery
In August 2020, Simmons Cancer Center launched the Simmons Acute Care (SAC) unit to provide outpatient treatment for acute illnesses related to cancer or cancer treatment. Advanced practice providers work closely with the primary medical team to manage cancer and treatment-related side effects, ensuring continuity of care by providers who understand the clinical needs of patients with cancer.
“The SAC unit integrates an innovative health care delivery model with exceptional clinical care. Our most recent successes are a testament to the highly collaborative nature of our Center,” Dr. Sweetenham says.
Since its launch, SAC has reduced emergency department visits and allowed patients to receive supportive care, such as infusions and transfusion support, medication administration, and wound care by appointment.
Radiation Oncology Building Expansion
A leader in the field of radiation oncology, Simmons Cancer Center is a pioneer in adaptive therapy, which combines real-time, high-resolution imaging and modern radiation therapy to deliver ultraprecise treatment that can be customized to changes in patients’ anatomy and tumor size.
With the recent completion of Simmons’ 71,000- square-foot expansion of radiation oncology services, the Cancer Center has ushered in several new technologies, including two Varian Ethos systems that combine artificial intelligence and adaptive therapy; two Elekta Unity MR-Linac systems to provide precise and personalized radiation therapy; two Varian Halcyon systems to optimize image-guided radiotherapy; and RefleXion equipment to provide biology-guided radiotherapy.
“These adaptive machines not only provide precise image-guidance to tumors, they realign and reshape radiation treatment to the borders of the tumor as it changes, meaning we’ll be able to better target tumors and avoid healthy tissue,” says Robert Timmerman, M.D., Professor and Interim Chair of Radiation Oncology as well as Professor of Neurosurgery.
Simmons Cancer Center has plans to take the technology further by combining it with artificial intelligence to create even more effective and highly personalized treatments, called PULSAR, now being investigated in brain cancer and rectal cancer clinical trials. (PULSAR stands for personalized ultrafractionated stereotactic adaptive radiotherapy.)
Taking Surgery to the Next Level
A number of innovative new surgical initiatives at UT Southwestern are leading the way to improved surgical outcomes and increased patient satisfaction. For example, in 2020, we became the second academic medical center in the U.S. to begin using “OR Black Box” technology to help fuse patient outcomes data with audiovisual tools to provide a new way of reviewing surgical cases.
Participating in this pilot program is Herbert Zeh, M.D., Professor and Chair of Surgery and an innovator and leader in the field of pancreatic diseases and pancreatic cancer. In fact, Dr. Zeh has performed more Whipple procedures for pancreatic cancer than anyone in the U.S. He says the OR Black Box system advances opportunities to improve surgeons’ skills, optimize surgical team orchestration, improve preparedness and efficiency in the operating room, and advance training for residents, fellows, and medical students.