Officials of Novant Health in Charlotte announced Tuesday they have affiliated with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, enabling Charlotte doctors to offer more treatment options for area children diagnosed with cancer.
This is the seventh affiliate, and the first in the Carolinas, for St. Jude, which is internationally recognized for pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer.
The new clinic will be named the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital. It was formerly known as Blume Pediatric Hematology & Oncology.
With the St. Jude affiliation, children treated at Novant Health will have access to “the most advanced clinical trials in the world,” said Dr. Andy Mueller, Novant’s senior vice president for the Charlotte market.
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Previously, Charlotte-area patients who wanted to participate in clinical trials through St. Jude had to travel to Memphis for that treatment. Now they’ll be able to get the treatment in Charlotte, through the Novant Health clinic and its four oncologists who will collaborate with doctors at St. Jude.
Dr. Larry Kun, executive vice president for St. Jude, said Tuesday’s announcement was the culmination of a “serious courtship” that took three years.
“This seems exactly right,” Kun said. The quality of care here is as good as we’ve seen anywhere.”
Based on experience at the other affiliates, Kun said about 50 to 60 percent of patients from the Novant Health affiliate will take advantage of clinical trials offered by St. Jude.
St. Jude is well-known for its generous financial assistance policy. All patients are accepted without regard to the family’s ability to pay, and St. Jude covers all costs (such as co-pays and deductibles) beyond those reimbursed by third-party insurers. There is no charge for patients without insurance.
Those expenses are covered by the American Lebanese Syrian Affiliated Charities, the fund-raising organization for St. Jude, which was co-founded in the 1950s by Danny Thomas, the TV celebrity of Lebanese descent.
Kun said St. Jude also pays for transportation and living expenses when patients have to travel to Memphis for part of their care. Most children with cancer require treatment for 6 to 12 months, or even several years, Kun said.
Dr. Jessica Bell, one of four pediatric oncologists at the Novant Health clinic, said she frequently has to deliver bad new to parents about a child’s cancer diagnosis. “Beginning today that conversation is filled with new hope,” she said, because of access to experimental treatments available through St. Jude. “Any patient of ours is a St. Jude patient,” Bell said.
Tracy Moye of Matthews, whose son Dominick has been treated for cancer at Novant Health, said she’s grateful for the St. Jude partnership because it will keep parents from having to travel when their children are sick.
Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was 7, Dominick received a bone marrow transplant at the Medical University of South Carolina. Moye and her son spent four months living in Charleston during his treatment, while her husband continued to work in Charlotte and her parents moved from Pennsylvania to Charlotte to help care for their other two sons.
If Dominick, now 11, were to have a recurrence, Moye said he would now have access in Charlotte to St. Jude’s clinical trials. “We wouldn’t have to break apart the family. It’s right here.”