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Integrated Cancer and Cardiac Team Gets High Marks from Patients

The Ottawa Hospital Wins 2013 Award for Innovation for Ottawa Cardiac Oncology Program

November 21, 2013 – A multidisciplinary program that integrates cancer and cardiac care for patients has garnered The Ottawa Hospital the 2013 Innovation Award from the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario.

“We are very excited about our program bringing leading practitioners in both fields of medicine together to collaborate on common goals,” said Dr. Susan Dent, Medical Oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. “That sharing of knowledge and information will improve the quality of care that we provide to each patient.”

Chemotherapy in cancer treatment can be life-saving. However, growing evidence is also showing that chemotherapy can have the unintended consequence of damaging the heart. While the toxicity of conventional chemotherapy on cardiac tissue is well known, the short- and long-term effects of targeted cancer medications on the heart are not as well understood.

The Ottawa Cardiac Oncology Program (OCOP) was established at The Ottawa Hospital in 2008 by a multidisciplinary team consisting of medical oncology, cardiology and pharmacy, and was the first program of its kind in Canada. For patients and their families, navigating the complexities of the cancer system can be overwhelming. This difficulty is compounded if complications from cancer treatment occur, requiring a multidisciplinary approach involving several medical specialties.

OCOP provides patients with an integrated approach to cancer therapy, with seamless communication between health-care providers, as well as timely access to medical assessment and treatment, which has an impact on quality of care post-treatment.

For Lisa Lee, 50, the integrated cancer and cardiac care she receives for treatment of breast cancer at The Ottawa Hospital is a perfect example of teamwork and coordination in action.

Lisa was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer in July 2012. Part of her treatment plan includes 18 doses of trastuzumab (Herceptin), which are taken in conjunction with and following chemotherapy. However, one of the known side effects of trastuzumab is the risk of damage to the heart, impacting the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.

Shortly after Lisa started her trastuzumab therapy, a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram) showed a decrease in her heart function. She was referred to OCOP where she was assessed and monitored closely during her treatment. Fortunately, Lisa was able to continue her trastuzumab treatments without any delays. Today, she continues to receive scans to monitor her heart’s function and performance.

“It was so organized, and it all happened very quickly. The chemotherapy unit had very close dealings with the cardiologists. The oncology and cardiology teams were very well integrated,” said Lisa.

“It means a great deal to me to know I’m getting such great care and medically these teams know exactly what is happening. I was under the care of one team, not several teams doing different things. There was less confusion.”

“Each year, the Quality and Innovation Awards encourage and recognize organizations or programs that have made significant improvements for the delivery of quality care across the province and sparked innovation resulting in better care for cancer patients. This year is no exception,” said Virginia McLaughlin, Chair of CQCO. “This year’s award winners and honourable mentions initiated programs that strengthen the delivery of exceptional care and hold tremendous promise for helping improve health outcomes.”

The Quality and Innovation Awards are an annual event sponsored by the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario (CQCO), Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) and the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. This year marks the eighth annual Quality and Innovation Awards. The awards honour the development of new approaches, processes, products, or programs that enhance cancer care in Ontario.

About The Ottawa Hospital
The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) is a bilingual multi-campus, health sciences centre offering comprehensive, high quality, patient-focused health-care services to a community of 1.3 million people in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. With over 1,100 beds and an annual budget over $1 Billion, TOH is one of the largest teaching and research hospitals in Canada. To meet the high demand for its services, it relies on a dedicated and compassionate team of 12,000 employees, 1,300 physicians and more than 1,000 volunteers. The Ottawa Hospital is renowned for its leadership in patient care, research, education and for its investment in state-of-the-art facilities and technology. Working together with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the University of Ottawa, and other partners, TOH is gaining national and international recognition for high quality patient care, teaching and research.
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