Memorial Cancer Institute: Supporting Patients Every Step of the Way

One of the largest cancer centers in the state of Florida, Memorial Cancer Institute treats more than 4,300 new cancer patients every year, providing them with innovative technology and a team of more than 300 medical and support professionals who are dedicated to offering world-class cancer care.

Highly Coordinated, Quality Oncology Care

In the last year, Memorial Cancer Institute implemented the Oncology Care Model, a Medicare initiative that offers enhanced services to Medicare beneficiaries and aims to provide higher quality, more highly coordinated oncology care.

This new platform of care allows Memorial Cancer Institute patients to receive more care at the Institute and spend less time in urgent or emergent care. The Memorial Cancer Institute team believes it can help a larger population of patients stay well and stay out of the Emergency Room with new clinical measures. The Institute has laid the groundwork and is developing new workflows and operations in order to begin achieving higher value of the care provided. Various clinical concerns including pain documentation and pain management, screening for depression and advanced care planning have been addressed for the benefit of families.

The Oncology Care Model creates the platform for Memorial Cancer Institute practices to provide beneficiaries with financial estimates in the case of those who may have balances, and offers improved clinical communication via navigation and provider discussions.

“I believe the Oncology Care Model is the future of healthcare delivery and an innovative payment system for practitioners treating patients with cancer. With a focus on quality care, smarter spending, and improving patients’ health, Memorial Cancer Institute is on the cutting edge of improving patient care in a cost-effective manner”
Maggie Wiegandt

Vice President, Memorial Cancer Institute

Oral Chemotherapy Counseling Clinic

Memorial Cancer Institute’s Oral Chemotherapy Counseling Clinic was launched in 2017 to serve patients on oral chemotherapy, biotherapy and immunotherapies. The clinic services include initial education when starting treatment and follow-up monitoring and counseling. Prior to educating patients, pharmacists review prescriptions and perform drug-drug interaction checks. Pharmacists also monitor lab results to identify if any modifications need to be made based on patient renal, hepatic or other existing laboratory abnormality and discuss with the physician if needed.

During initial education, pharmacists provide an extensive review of how to take the medication, safety precautions, home medication review, drug-drug and drug-food interaction checking, pregnancy and fertility information, Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy program assistance, additional monitoring requirements, and ensuring chemotherapy consent and electronic health record treatment plan initiation, consistent with Quality Oncology Practice Initiative and specialty pharmacy accreditation requirements. Follow-up sessions with the pharmacist may include refill assistance, recommendations for laboratory or other monitoring, side effect management, dose adjustments or treatment plan modifications, medication clarification or reconciliation, and other education based on the patient’s needs.

First Year Statistics:

“One of the biggest benefits of coming to Memorial for oral chemotherapy is that it is a one-stop shop. From the moment a prescription is sent by the provider, an entire team of specialists is ready to assist with the needs of the patient, from ‘How am I going to pay for this medication?’ to ‘How do I take the medication?’”
Frank Gentile, PharmD

Clinical Specialist, Hematology/Oncology

Moffitt Malignant Hematology and Cellular Therapy Program

The Moffitt Malignant Hematology and Cellular Therapy Program (MHCT), a clinical partnership between Moffitt Cancer Center and Memorial Healthcare System, allows blood cancer patients to receive high quality care close to home. Based at Memorial Hospital West, the program performs both allogenic and autologous transplants, and its methods have been recognized for exceeding established standards in patient care and laboratory practices.

In April, the facility received three-year accreditation by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) for compliance with the FACT-Joint Accreditation Committee of ISCT-EBMT International Standards for Hematopoietic Cellular Therapy. To qualify for accreditation, a facility has to meet or exceed cellular therapy standards, submit to a rigorous approval process and pass an on-site inspection.

As of May 1, the 100-day survival rate for patients transplanted at the Moffitt MHCT program at Memorial Hospital West was 100 percent.

“The ability to get experienced BMT care locally is the reason to be seen in the Moffitt Malignant Hematology and Cellular Therapy Program at Memorial Healthcare System.”
Hugo Fernández, MD

Medical Director, Malignant Hematology and Cellular Therapy Program

Memorial Cancer Institute: Precision Medicine to Fight Lung Cancer

Genetic testing is becoming the standard of care for cancer – and many institutions today spend millions on ads to attract patients, even though they offer the same standard genetic testing as every other provider in the US.

However, as recent accomplishments show, Memorial Cancer Institute has gone beyond this basic standard of care. Led by Luis E. Raez, MD, the lung cancer program’s research team – collaborating with important institutions and leaders in the field – has made important genetic discoveries for fighting the disease, earning accolades at both the national and international levels in the process.

This year, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and the international journal Lung Cancer published the discovery of new genes, MET-MY1230 and EGFR-G724s, that contribute to lung cancer patients’ developing resistance to the very drugs that fight their disease. Dr. Raez and his team followed up by publishing the discovery of another gene abnormality, EGFR RAD-51, in Lung Cancer. This discovery resulted in a change in therapy for a Memorial Cancer Institute lung cancer patient, who ended up going into remission instead of hospice care.

The world’s top medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, published the world’s first results regarding the experimental drug Larotrectenib, currently in clinical trials in the US. Memorial Cancer Institute is one of the few cancer institutes in the country – and the only one in Florida – to offer this drug, which helps adult and pediatric patients combat not just lung cancer but also other solid tumors such as sarcomas and lymphomas.

Working with Exosome Diagnostics, Inc. – a developer of liquid-based biopsies for non-small-cell lung cancer – Memorial Cancer Institute in March also published results of a new RNA blood technology that detects an important genetic marker for lung cancer that points to a specific, targeted therapy – without having to send the patient for a biopsy.

Finally, in April 2018, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology published the first identification of a lung cancer gene, ROS1, in circulating tumor cells – extending the life of a stage IV lung cancer patient for several years with oral, targeted therapy instead of chemotherapy.

“Memorial Cancer Institute is one of Florida’s most advanced centers in liquid biopsies – and the only one that uses RNA technology, which is a more precise and efficient method of tracking tumors and responses to therapy in the blood,” Dr. Raez says. “We truly offer precision medicine.”

Integrative Medicine Promotes Patient Engagement to Help Fight Cancer

By creating innovative new programs, Memorial Healthcare System’s Division of Integrative Medicine is empowering cancer patients with holistic and preventive resources to take active roles in their healing and survivorship. Integrative Medicine works in collaboration with the patient’s whole treatment team.

The Next Step

The Next Step program is a series of group-based informational sessions, during which newly diagnosed cancer patients can learn how to proactively address common cancer symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances, nausea, pain and mood changes. With fast referrals to nutrition consultations, therapeutic yoga, massage, acupuncture and other aspects of supportive care, The Next Step can help patients manage side effects of treatment and enhance quality of life throughout the spectrum of cancer care.

The Green Pharmacy

Cancer patients often receive a bewildering number of recommendations for vitamins and supplements from well-intentioned family and friends. To help them separate true science from marketing hype, Memorial’s Green Pharmacy offers only top-quality, evidence-based natural health products that meet the highest standards of authenticity, purity and potency – and makes them available at affordable prices. To further increase access and safety, Memorial’s Integrative Medicine team created a tool in the EPIC medical records system that allows providers to prescribe these products with full transparency.


With support from the Pink Angels, Memorial has expanded its therapeutic yoga program – offering more sessions to more cancer patients in an enhanced space that provides an environment of serenity and healing.

Sherman Award for Patient Engagement

The Integrative Medicine program at Memorial Healthcare System was a finalist for the 2018 Sherman Award for Excellence in Patient Engagement, which recognizes innovative work that has resulted in better, safer care and improved outcomes by engaging patients and families.

The Integrative Medicine program applies evidence-informed, non-pharmacologic modalities including nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, yoga, massage and acupuncture to help patients with symptoms related to cancer and its treatment. The main goal of the Integrative Medicine program is to empower cancer patients with health information and resources needed to optimize wellness during treatment and prevent recurrence. The program promotes patient engagement in the cancer arena and helps patients be proactive about their recovery and survivorship to improve their quality of life.

“At Memorial, we believe it’s vital that we offer cancer patients every tool they can use to become healthy cancer survivors. That’s why, every day, we work to give patients the confidence that they can take ownership of and manage their health, even – or perhaps especially – while they’re receiving leading-edge cancer treatment.”
Ashwin Mehta, MD

Medical Director, Integrative Medicine and Medical Director, Physician Wellness

Interactive Cooking Classes with Registered Dietitians

Memorial Cancer Institute patients now have another important tool in their fight against the disease. A grant from the 1000+ Club to Benefit Cancer has made it possible for the institute to help patients, survivors and caregivers understand the specific nutritional needs of those whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Since January, the institute’s Oncology Nutrition Program has provided free, interactive cooking classes and educational workshops taught by Memorial Cancer Institute registered dietitians. Classes are open to any Memorial Cancer Institute patient and one family member or caregiver. More than $12,000 has been earmarked to support the program, with classes held monthly to help patients and their families focus on optimizing caloric and nutrient intake.

“Our cooking class takes nutrition and puts it in a practical form. We educate our patients on what to eat and they learn how to cook healthy, delicious meals. They get to take home recipes and eat all the meals provided.”
Stacy Roberts-Davis

Registered Dietitian, Memorial Cancer Institute


Memorial’s Lung Cancer Team Helps David Live a Full Life

"Cancer used to be a death sentence; now there’s hope." That’s David’s assessment, five years after being diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer.

After his diagnosis, David visited Luis Raez, MD, Medical Director, Memorial Cancer Institute. "Dr. Raez told me, ‘Listen, David, we’re going to give you the best medicine we have."

For three years, his condition was stabilized with chemotherapy. In the fourth year, the first targeted therapy pill for lung cancer came on the market. Dr. Raez prescribed it for David and since then has been using targeted medications to care for him.

Without the side effects of chemotherapy, targeted therapy has greatly improved David’s quality of life.

"I’m able to live a full life, thanks to all this technology and all this research, David said. "My little girl, she just turned 18. I didn’t think that I was going to live to see her turn 15."


Moffitt-Memorial Team Performs Todrick’s Bone Marrow Transplant

In his battle with acute myeloid leukemia, Todrick is grateful for the care he receives from the physicians, nurses and staff at Moffitt Malignant Hematology & Cellular Therapy at Memorial Healthcare System.

“They’re the specialists,” he said. “Just knowing you’re in good hands is a good feeling.”

A bone marrow transplant was required after Todrick was diagnosed with the potentially fatal blood disorder.

“There’s no way you can prepare for it, to hear that diagnosis,” he said.

After chemotherapy treatments, Todrick benefited from haploidentical transplantation, a new process that does not require a complete donor match. It enabled his father to be his donor.

Todrick’s Continuing Care

Approximately nine months post-transplantation, Todrick suffered a relapse and the Moffitt-Memorial team continues to help him fight his aggressive leukemia, using ongoing chemotherapy, as well as stem cells from his father to control the disease.

“I always try to give patients hope,” said Hugo Fernandez, MD, Chair and Medical Director, Moffitt Malignant Hematology & Cellular Therapy at Memorial. “And I’m going to be there for them to get through this.”