February 1, 2023 — The International Cardio-Oncology Society has awarded University Hospitals (UH) Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute a Center of Excellence designation in recognition of its ongoing support of cancer patients facing heart issues. This Gold Status certification, the society’s highest designation, recognizes the institute for its commitment to cardiology services for cancer patients in whom life-saving treatments may cause cardiac problems. This innovative cardio-oncology program, founded in 2013, is a collaboration between UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute and UH Seidman Cancer Center.
The society awards this Gold Status Center of Excellence designation to programs with excellence in quality of care, standards of care, quality metrics, and program improvements. The designation is intended to not only acknowledge exceptional programs in cardio-oncology patient care, but to also award programs that contribute to local, regional, state, and national level education in cardio-oncology.
While cancer therapy has improved dramatically over the past several decades with a notable increase in survival rates, some cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can potentially cause heart problems. The development of unexpected heart issues can cause interruption and even discontinuation of cancer treatments. Therefore, keeping the heart healthy during cancer treatment is essential to delivering optimal patient care and achieving good outcomes. Cardio-oncologists are devoted to screening, monitoring and treating any heart problem before, during or after cancer therapy.
“Cancer treatments often result in significant physiologic changes to cells in the heart muscle, and patients have better health outcomes when their heart is monitored,” said Zeeshan Hussain, MD, advanced heart failure, heart transplantation and cardio-oncology specialist with UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. “Our cardio-oncologists are familiar with the medications, radiation treatments, and immunotherapies oncology patients receive and how they may adversely affect their hearts, so we can proactively address any damage.”
In 2020, when Tara Hyland began experiencing strange symptoms, blood work determined she needed an MRI, but she could not get a timely appointment where she was living at the time in San Francisco. She turned to UH Seidman Cancer Center in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, which enabled her to fly in for a next-day appointment.
Doctors discovered Hyland had a tumor on her right adrenal gland -- adrenocortical carcinoma, an aggressive type of cancer. She was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor within a week and had a good prognosis for about a year, until her cancer returned and spread. She needed an aggressive form of chemotherapy called EDP, which is known to be cardiotoxic. At that time, her care team widened from oncologists at UH Seidman to include cardio-oncologists at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.
“It was one of the major things that put my mind at complete ease,” said Hyland. “I knew, not only are they being proactive about my cancer and my heart, but everything that could go wrong comprehensively. I was in good hands which helped me worry less and concentrate on fighting the cancer and healing.”
Although several echocardiograms showed reason for continued monitoring, Hyland’s heart ultimately stayed healthy through the chemotherapy.
“When I got a good report about my heart, I knew it was strong enough to go into the next round of chemotherapy. It gave me confidence through the process,” she said.
Hyland is back home in California, but not in remission. The recurrence rate of her cancer is high. While she now undergoes some medical treatment closer to home, she also plans to continue monitoring and care with the team she trusts at UH.
The cardio-oncology program at UH provides comprehensive cardiovascular care for all cancer patients; more than 1,500 patients annually and between 60 to 100 new patients every month.
The program strives to provide high quality and accessible care in a variety of ways including same day appointment capability and an average time to appointment of less than one week. The program also features dedicated cardio-oncology nurse navigators to streamline patient triage and improve care coordination. It features three satellite clinics in the community in addition to the main location at UH Cleveland Medical Center.
“At UH, we know the importance of working well together across institutes and in an inter-disciplinary fashion,” said Mehdi Shishehbor, DO, MPH, PhD, President of UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, and Angela and James Hambrick Chair in Innovation. “Receiving recognition for cardio-oncology shows our cardiology caregivers’ ability to work with our counterparts in oncology at UH Seidman Cancer Center to deliver the best quality care for patients.”
“At University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, we are committed to taking care of the whole person while they are undergoing cancer therapy,” said Ted Teknos, MD, President and Scientific Director of UH Seidman Cancer Center and the Jane and Lee Seidman Chair in Cancer Innovation. “Our exceptional cardio-oncology program is a shining example of how we help patients both survive and thrive by delivering best in class cancer outcomes and minimizing the side effects of therapy.”
A successful cardio-oncology program ensures that oncologists can safely care for cancer patients, eliminate interruptions to life-saving cancer treatments, and improve patients’ long-term survival and quality of life.
For more information: www.UHhospitals.org