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New partnership between Ochsner Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center to bring revolutionary cancer care to Louisiana | Sponsored: Ochsner

In a collaboration sparked by shared values and a dedication to multidisciplinary patient care, Ochsner Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center have embarked on an official agreement that aims to enhance cancer treatment outcomes and expand access to cutting-edge therapies for patients in Louisiana.

“This is a validation that everything we are able to offer and that our team has worked hard to build meets the same standard of care that patients receive at MD Anderson,” said Emily Lawrence, VP, Center of Excellence, Cancer Service Line at Ochsner. “It shows the commitment of Ochsner to cancer care and to our communities. We know the need for high quality cancer care in Louisiana is significant, and through this partnership Ochsner has continued to invest the time and resources necessary to reinforce our programs which will only help us expand that standard of care across the state.”

In the first phase, Ochsner MD Anderson facilities are The Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner Medical Center, Ochsner Medical Center – Kenner, Ochsner Medical Center – West Bank Campus, Ochsner Baptist – A Campus of Ochsner Medical Center, Ochsner Cancer Center – Baton Rouge, Ochsner Medical Complex – The Grove and St. Tammany Cancer Center – A Campus of Ochsner Medical Center. Ochsner and MD Anderson will work together to certify additional sites in the future.

Lawrence said Ochsner and MD Anderson already had a long-standing working relationship. Many Ochsner patients have traveled to MD Anderson to receive care, meaning clinical staff have communicated about several cases. Additionally, several Ochsner physicians have undergone training at MD Anderson. Because of those relationships, the two entities began conversations a few years ago about Ochsner joining MD Anderson’s partner network.

Ochsner is one of only seven institutions and the only one in Louisiana invited to be a partner of MD Anderson. Dr. Welela Tereffe, chief medical executive at MD Anderson, said officials there were especially impressed with Ochsner’s philosophy of being physician-driven and patient-centered, which is considered a model for excellent patient care.

“The major benefit to patients is that they will experience MD Anderson’s multidisciplinary care model, which elevates the overall care coordination, decision-making, and follow-through from diagnosis onwards,” said Dr. Tereffe. “It’s an environment where doctors are having conversations before the treatment plan begins. Everyone on the multidisciplinary team is constantly connecting with one another in real time to make joint decisions about care.”

Lawrence added that Ochsner’s partnership with MD Anderson also means eligible Ochsner cancer patients now have increased access to select clinical trials. These trials involve medications or treatment therapies that are generally not widely available. Ochsner has already participated in several such trials, but the new partnership will expand this work even further.

“The pace of clinical advancement in cancer care is so significant that to be on a clinical trial is often considered the standard of care,” Lawrence said. “In some of our trials, we’ve seen patients go from a very dire situation to having a significant positive response to these new therapies. We want to continue to do our part to bring these options to more people, including a more diverse patient population. This partnership accelerates the timeline in which we can offer some of these treatments. It’s a huge benefit to patients.”

Emily Lawrence, VP, Center of Excellence, Cancer Service Line at Ochsner Health, speaks during an event announcing the health system’s new partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center. Provided photo

For example, Ochsner recently treated its first patient with CAR T cell therapy, an innovative cancer treatment in which a patient’s T cells are programmed to fight cancer inside their body. Lawrence said the current approved CAR T cell therapies focus on the treatment of treat blood cancers, although studies are now underway about its use to treat solid tumors. Ochsner is the only site in Louisiana with access to the treatment and its new relationship with MD Anderson means Ochsner physicians are among the first in the nation to explore its efficacy and future uses.

“There’s been tremendous progress in this area in just the last 10 years. It really shows the innovations that are being made in treatment,” Dr. Tereffe added. “CAR T cell therapy shifts the balance to target cancer more effectively while protecting the normal body tissues. There are tons of amazing scientists working on ways for it to have fewer side effects and treat more cancers in a more manageable way. It’s an exciting process that is advancing almost every day.”

The partnership also benefits Ochsner physicians and clinicians, who are able to take part in advanced training and are able to consult with MD Anderson specialists, especially with rare tumors or complex cases.

“We have ongoing educational opportunities for all levels of the care team – nurses, physicians, pharmacists and everyone else who is involved,” Dr. Tereffe said. “We hold multidisciplinary tumor boards in collaboration with our network partners to review situations that are particularly complicated. We also hold summits and strategic planning meetings to find out where our network partners need our support and input. The combination of everyone’s ideas together benefits all patients.”

Lawrence said she is especially excited that the new partnership means Louisiana patients who live close to Ochsner locations are able to receive innovative cancer treatment that mirrors the care at MD Anderson. She noted that some patients are unable to travel because of their condition, while other families struggle to maintain personal obligations at home if they must be away for an extended period.

“Cancer can be extremely taxing, not only on the patient, but on their caregivers and support systems,” she said. “We hear often from patients that staying away from home has a significant impact on them. This partnership lessens that impact and gives them back time to spend with their family and friends while having the confidence that they are receiving the exact same care that they would at MD Anderson.”

To learn more about Ochsner MD Anderson Cancer Center, visit

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