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It’s a Team Effort for Treatment of Urologic Cancers

bladder cancer
A group of medical professionals conversing

With urologic cancers, including prostate, bladder, kidney, urothelial upper tract, testicular, penile and urethral cancer, on the rise, the team at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center at Westerly Hospital designed a clinic where patients with prostate and urologic cancers can meet with all of their providers at the same time, in the same place. 

In the past, patients typically needed to schedule multiple appointments with their urologist and other specialists before receiving a recommendation for care. The team noted that improvements in communication between specialists and the patient could enhance the patient’s experience, according to Matthew Austin, MD, medical oncologist at Westerly Hospital and assistant professor of clinical medicine (medical oncology) at Yale Cancer Center.

Modeled after a similar multidisciplinary clinic introduced at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Waterford last year, the Westerly clinic “is the concept of real-time, personalized, collaborative care among experts in a particular disease,” said Joseph Renzulli, MD chief of urology for Lawrence + Memorial and Westerly hospitals and associate professor of urology at Yale School of Medicine. “We provide a consensus opinion and treatment plan recommendation for our patients. We coordinate that care plan for you so you do not have to worry about scheduling appointments for bloodwork, imaging or additional physician appointments.”  

Patients are referred to the clinic once they are diagnosed with a malignancy such as advanced or high-grade prostate cancer, invasive bladder cancer, kidney cancer or testicular cancer. The multidisciplinary clinic team starts working on the patient’s care and treatment plan before the patient arrives for the first visit by reviewing the medical records, pathology and diagnostic imaging. Yale Medicine pathologists also review the initial tissue samples and provide a second opinion on the diagnosis. The patient’s first visit to the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center at Westerly or Waterford includes a one-hour comprehensive consultation with the entire multidisciplinary clinic team. Here, patients talk with their medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and urologist – all in the same room. 

Joining Dr. Renzulli and Dr. Austin on the multidisciplinary clinic medical team is Sanjay Aneja, MD, a radiation oncologist at Westerly Hospital and assistant professor of therapeutic radiology with Yale School of Medicine. 

“The feedback we’ve received from patients is that they leave the clinic feeling very well informed on the different treatment approaches for their urologic cancer,” said Kristen Nunes, RN, the clinic’s nurse coordinator. 

The team includes additional counsel from pharmacy, social workers and specialists in cancer genetics. Clinical research coordinators screen patients to determine whether they may be candidates for clinical trials through Yale Cancer Center. These clinical trials help researchers develop new treatments and often lead to medical breakthroughs.

“Many treatments are now driven by your genetic profile. This information is critical to make sure that other family members are aware of their risk so they can get appropriate cancer screenings for themselves,” Dr. Austin said, adding that the clinic’s team extends to include a multidisciplinary tumor board, where each patient’s case can be presented to the entire urologic oncology division for further discussion and review of data. 

“Having all our specialists involved from the beginning of the patient’s care ensures that they receive cutting-edge treatment with the highest treatment success rate,” Dr. Aneja said.

“We always want to treat our oncology patients as if they are part of our family,” said Robert D. Legare, MD, medical director, Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center at Westerly and Waterford, and associate professor of clinical medicine (medical oncology), Yale Cancer Center. “With a multidisciplinary clinic such as the one we’ve established for urology, we’re quite literally bringing our family of experts to sit together with each patient.” 

“This model of cancer care has been so successful at many leading institutions that it is available or being developed for breast cancer, thoracic cancers, head and neck cancers and gastrointestinal malignancies throughout the region,” Dr. Renzulli said. “It’s rewarding for our team to know that we’re on the cutting-edge of what’s best for our patients.

To make an appointment with a urologist at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital or Westerly Hospital, call 844-817-9171. To contact Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center, call 401-656-4950 (Westerly) or 860-444-3744 (Waterford).