Cancer Center in Nevada to Stay Open

    UCSD will lease one-third of the center to CCCN and will partner with two other Nevada cancer companies — a research institute and a cancer screening institute — to keep its doors open. CCCN, the main partnering company, will take over operations as part of the agreement. According to UCSD Dean of Clinical Affairs Tom McAfee, the partnership is intended to reform and expand the Nevada Cancer Institute.

    CCCN will occupy 42,000 square feet of the 150,000-square-foot Nevada Cancer Institute next year. As part of the partnership agreement, UCSD will establish an academic program in Nevada and offer options to CCCN patients that they previously did not have without the partnership.

    “For example, if you need a bone marrow transplant, that’s something that’s not available in Las Vegas, but it is available at UCSD,” McAfee said in a Nov. 16 North County Times article. “UCSD says [its] Nevada presence will continue.”

    UCSD will also offer genomic sequencing, early-stage clinical trials and services that are otherwise unavailable in Las Vegas, according to a statement by UCSD Health Sciences Communications Director Jacqueline Carr.

    When it opened in 1974, the Nevada Cancer Institute consisted of an independent oncology practice and several medical offices. However, after it accumulated almost $100 million in debt from Bank of America to keep itself afloat, the center filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 2 of last year, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. UCSD then bought the center out of bankruptcy for $18 million in January 2012. The purchase included an agreement that the center would donate $20.8 million to UCSD over a five-year span.

    “We purchased two assets: a medical offices building and an oncology practice, which consisted of six oncologists,” McAfee said. “The six oncologists were losing money because they lost most of their referral base.”

    After purchasing the Nevada Cancer Institute, McAfee said, UCSD tried to restore the oncologists’ referral base, but was relatively unsuccessful. Faced with new California tax rule changes that amassed over $10 million in costs along with new management and the rising cost of drugs, UCSD could not compete with CCCN.

    “The Comprehensive Cancer [Center] Network owns 50 percent of the share in Las Vegas,” McAfee said. “We looked to other community services in order to compete against CCCN. It turns out the other smaller practices were not good to compete.”

    One of UCSD’s goals in purchasing the center is to expand the patient pool for the researchers at Moores Cancer Center. However, because the Nevada Cancer Institute practices were very small, there was not a significant increase in patients over the eight months after UCSD purchased the center, McAfee said.

    Instead of deciding to out-compete CCCN, UCSD joined it, according to McAfee.

    The new partnership will displace some of the Nevada Cancer Institute staff by Dec. 31, and CCCN staff from nearby branches will be added. According to McAfee, some of the staff will be downsized even sooner. UCSD does not plan to close the Nevada Cancer Institute during the transition.

    “We’re not terminating our role,” McAfee said. “Our role is evolving. We’re going to be more of an academic presence.”

    McAfee said that UCSD plans to finish negotiations with the three institutes by the end of December, and slowly transition the CCCN staff into these institutes during the first quarter of 2013.

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