Tampa General Hospital Cancer Institute Celebrates 2 Years of Growth and Innovation

Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD

After the Tampa General Hospital (TGH) Cancer Institute in Florida commemorated its second anniversary in April 2023, Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD, the institute’s newly minted vice president and executive director, noted that the amount of progress achieved by the institution was made possible by its continued commitment to finding creative solutions to address the needs of patients. Sotomayor was named to his current appointments on November 30, 2023.1

“There is a need for [the] cancer institute to provide the best care to the growing population in the Tampa Bay area,” Sotomayor, said in an interview with OncologyLive. “We are in the process of working through the vision, mission, and our strategic plan, but we are a cancer institute that is highly translational. We are going to be focused on basic science, but basic science that is going to rapidly translate to the bedside. We are committed to the community that we serve [and] we’re going to have very strong community outreach, engagement, education, and training.”

In December 2022, the TGH Cancer Institute, which also serves as the primary teaching hospital for the University of South Florida (USF) Morsani College of Medicine, received a 3-year accreditation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC). The CoC is a quality program established by the American College of Surgeons; earning accreditation signifies that the TGH Cancer Institute met 34 quality care standards, utilized a multidisciplinary approach, and demonstrated a commitment to improving patient outcomes and quality of life. Institutions that are accredited by the CoC diagnose and/or treat over 70% of all patients with a new cancer diagnosis.2

In June 2023, TGH was honored as a top cancer hospital in the United States, according to Newsweek and Statista. The institution received this distinction by ranking in the top 3% of cancer hospitals in the nation based on hospital quality metrics and survey results encompassing replies from both patients and oncology health care professionals across the nation.3

2021, the TGH Cancer Institute has experienced remarkable growth, both in terms of attracting talent and expanding their physical footprint. Since 2021, the cancer institute has recruited 22 physicians across surgical, radiation and hematologic oncology, as well as over 20 advanced practice providers, including pharmacists, nurses, managers, and administrators.1

Additionally, the institute has continued to add locations to serve more patients across the Tampa area; in July 2023, TGH announced the opening of a state-of-the-art infusion center in the Tampa suburb of Brandon that consists of 26 fully functional private chemotherapy areas. The institute also plans to open a radiation oncology center at this location in the future. TGH Cancer Institute also has locations in other areas surrounding Tampa, including Riverview, North Tampa, and St Petersburg, and is able to serve patients on Florida’s east coast via their partnership with the Cancer Center of South Florida.4

“I would have never imagined even in my wildest dreams the growth that we have [experienced]. I would say that where we are right now, is something that I was expecting to happen by 2025 or 2026,” Sotomayor said.

The TGH Cancer Institute sets itself apart, especially from other cancer centers in its area, by offering initiatives such as the TGH-USF Health Precision Medicine Biorepository. Announced in October 2022, the biorepository is a facility located on the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine campus in downtown Tampa that collects, catalogs, and stores biologic samples for future research. The biorepository allows the institute to conduct clinical and translational research and to further develop precision medicine approaches that will have an impact for patients in the Tampa area and beyond.5

“In that biobanking of cancer samples, around 30% of samples are coming from minority patients with cancer, which is very unique,” Sotomayor noted.

Another unique program that has led to improved care for patients with cancer is the institute’s integration of the CareComm command center. Opened at TGH in August 2019, CareComm, which was developed in partnership with GE HealthCare, consists of 20 artificial intelligence apps, video walls made up of 38 large screens, 32 workstations, and multiple computer systems, and is staffed by a multidisciplinary clinical team. The artificial intelligence apps or “tiles” apply advanced analytics to aid decision- making, help monitor patient flow, and track delays in care, allowing the clinical staff to make better informed decisions regarding patient care, and even predict the needs of patients before they arise.6

In October 2020, TGH reported that the integration of the CareComm command center had led to a $40 million reduction of systemwide inefficiencies since its inception. TGH noted that CareComm decreased the average length of stay for patients by eliminating 20,000 excess days.7

TGH has also invested significant resources into upgrading its radiation oncology program. In January 2023, the cancer institute announced the expansion of the program to include new technologies, such as the CyberKnife and TrueBeam systems, as well as high dose–rate brachytherapy. CyberKnife is a radiosurgery system that offers a noninvasive alternative to surgery. The TrueBeam linear accelerator allows for fast and precise delivery of image-guided radiation therapy.8

In terms of clinical trials, Sotomayor noted that, in addition to the full range of studies the institution offers across phases and tumor types, TGH Cancer Institute is focused on providing options for patients with cancers that are common in its catchment area. Sotomayor mentioned the brain tumor and sarcoma programs in particular, saying that they are busy and are aimed at filling unmet needs in the area. He also highlighted the institution’s dedicated phase 1 unit that is housed in its main location.

“We [have] started developing our Clinical Translational Research Program, which is going very well; we are opening innovative phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials,” Sotomayor said. “Next year, we are going to speed up that effort. Also in 2024, we will be building our basic science company recruitment of top-notch cancer researchers from the nation. Being post COVID[- 19 pandemic] will help us recruit talented people. Because of all this growth the board of TGH and the CEO have made a commitment for the next 5 years to support the cancer institute. Next year we are going to apply for Center of Excellence Accreditation, but our ultimate goal is to pursue National Cancer Institute designation within the decade.”

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