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UChicago Medicine updates plan for the city’s first freestanding cancer facility

Photo caption: An exterior rendering shows the proposed standalone cancer center and hospital, which will be located at East 57th Street between South Maryland and Drexel Avenues.

By Ashley Heher, UChicago Medicine

The project to build a hospital dedicated to cancer care, prevention and research was revised in response to needs of patients and South Side residents and will bring world-class, human-centered care to neighborhoods where the incidence of cancer is too high.

After 10 months of planning and community engagement, the University of Chicago Medicine has updated its original proposal to build the city’s first freestanding cancer hospital with an enhanced design that incorporates feedback from patients and residents of the South Side. The new cost and size of the project is $815 million for a 575,000-square-foot facility, with the ability for future expansion.

The project’s scope reflects community-driven, patient-focused changes made following the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board’s approval of a master design permit in March 2022. The permit allowed UChicago Medicine to spend money on design and site planning and afforded the time to get input from members of the community, cancer patients and survivors.

Changes to the cancer center project include patient-focused enhancements including a redesign of the ground-floor space to be a community hub for cancer prevention, screening and diagnoses, as well as private infusion bays, a dedicated breast center and shell space for future growth and technologies that have yet to be developed. The facility represents one of UChicago Medicine’s largest investments in the South Side community.

The new proposal is outlined in UChicago Medicine’s Certificate of Need application, which was filed with the state Review Board this month and seeks approval for the full construction of the cancer hospital. The new cancer hospital would consolidate care that is currently spread across at least five buildings on UChicago Medicine’s Hyde Park campus, which is the hub of the academic health system. The plan includes:

  • 80 inpatient beds, including 64 medical-surgical beds and a 16-bed intensive care unit
  • 90 consultation and outpatient exam rooms
  • A dedicated rapid assessment/urgent care clinic to protect immunocompromised oncology patients from extended emergency-room visits
  • Infusion therapy with private rooms grouped by cancer type
  • Cancer imaging suite with two MRIs, two CT scanners, two ultrasounds, two procedure rooms with mobile C-arm and fluoroscopy and an X-ray
  • A multidisciplinary breast center
  • Dedicated clinical trial spaces, for streamlined access to the latest research
  • A center dedicated to prevention, detection, treatment and survival, offering complementary therapies and stress reduction, community education and well-being support

“We will be building a model for groundbreaking cancer care and prevention — established on the principles of access, equity, dignity and innovation — right here on the South Side of Chicago,” said Mark Anderson, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Chicago. “With our long history of achievements in cancer and the great benefit of being interconnected with the University of Chicago, our new cancer facility will provide fertile ground for high-impact research so that we can tackle cancer’s toughest challenges, dramatically shorten the drug-development timeline, deliver the care that the community needs, and save more lives.”

Community Engagement

Just 50 years ago, a cancer diagnosis seemed unbeatable. Following the National Cancer Act of 1971, the country has seen remarkable advances in cancer detection and treatment. From 2001 to 2020, the rate of cancer deaths in the U.S. dropped 27%. However, the benefits of these advances have not been seen equitably across the nation’s communities. In fact, cancer is the second-leading cause of death among South Side residents, who die from cancer at rate that’s nearly twice the national average. UChicago Medicine’s service area also sees elevated rates for some of the most preventable or treatable cancers: cervical, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers.

The situation is expected to get worse: The incidence of cancer on the South Side is projected to increase 19% in the next five years, compared to 9.1% in the five collar counties surrounding the City of Chicago.

Driven by these alarming statistics and facts, UChicago Medicine launched a rigorous engagement effort to get input from patients and the community so that the proposed cancer center would reflect their needs. UChicago Medicine spent 10 months soliciting feedback that started with its Community Advisory Council, which is composed of volunteers who represent a cross section of its service area. The campaign also included pushing out 200,000 surveys in-person and via social media and e-newsletters, conducting a telephone poll, hosting two town halls, attending community meetings, getting patient feedback, and engaging faith leaders, community hospitals and civic officials.

“We have an opportunity to build a world-class facility for our patients and the community that propels UChicago Medicine to become the premier destination for comprehensive cancer care, where groundbreaking science and compassionate care meet to provide an unrivaled approach to conquering cancer,” said Tom Jackiewicz, President of the UChicago Medicine health system. “We will focus on a full-service patient and family experience offering a multidisciplinary approach, personalized therapies and clinical trials, as well as cancer prevention, screening and diagnosis, healthy lifestyle classes and more.”

This article originally appeared on UChicago Medicine.

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