UC San Diego Health System acquires Nevada Cancer Institute


By Lynne Friedmann

UC San Diego Health System is set to acquire the Nevada Cancer Institute (NVCI), which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early December 2011. The purchase price is $18 million for the four-story, 142,000-square-foot facility located in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas. NVCI will remain the official cancer institute of the state of Nevada with UC San Diego Health Service as affiliate health care provider. The arrangement represents a partnership between California and Nevada.

“In light of health care reform, innovative partnerships between states and their health systems will be key to increasing access to specialized care while managing health care costs,” said Tom McAfee, M.D., interim CEO of UC San Diego Health System and dean of clinical affairs.

This strategy is already employed by other academic-based medical institutions such as the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center with locations in Texas, Arizona, Florida; and the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio; Nevada; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and next year Abu Dhabi).

“This is definitely a trend that I expect to grow,” said McAfee.

Immediate plans for UC San Diego NVCI include the recruitment of medical and surgical oncologists, as well as a national search for a physician-scientist to serve as director of the institute. Insight Oncology, a management services company, will assist with the integration of the two organizations and provide operational oversight of the Las Vegas facility.

With four million residents, the greater Las Vegas area is similar in population size to San Diego. Nevada patients will continue to see their current physician, now with the advantage of potentially qualifying for a wider range of clinical trials and access to surgical specialties not currently available in the region.

“We anticipate that the services we will be providing will be an attractant to Las Vegas,” said Mark Adler, M.D., interim director of UC San Diego NVCI.

The nonprofit NVCI opened in 2005 with ambitious goals but was hit hard by the recession leading to it file for bankruptcy protection.

UC San Diego Health System used clinical revenue generated by its hospitals to purchase NVCI. No state funding was utilized. The terms of the sale also require the NVCL parent organization to raise $24 million in philanthropy to support expansion of the Nevada facility, according to Adler.

While the timing of the acquisition appears opportunistic, McAfee states it is in keeping with long-term strategic plans to expand its patient-care outreach with out-of-region affiliate hospitals, clinics, and specialty centers.

Less than a year ago, UC San Diego Health System acquired San Diego Cancer Center with locations in Encinitas and Vista and also operates a radiation oncology site in South Bay, multi-specialty clinics in Murrieta (Riverside County), a liver clinic in Henderson, Nev., and telemedicine clinics throughout the state of California.

UC San Diego Health System is comprised of UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, and UC San Diego Thornton Hospital, Moores Cancer Center, Shiley Eye Center, and Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center in La Jolla, as well as other primary and specialty practices of UC San Diego Medical Group.

UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center is home to nearly 350 medical and radiation oncologists, cancer surgeons, and researchers. It is one of only 40 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country, and the only one in the region. The designation signifies high achievement in research, clinical care, education, and community outreach and partnerships.

“Our goal is that NVCL be part of the NCI umbrella,” said Adler. “We are looking into what the rules are to either expanding our NCI designation or if (NVCL) has to quality on its own.”

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.