WellSpan Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine ‘fight cancer together’ with expanded partnership 

Ioannis Pashakis//November 11, 2021

WellSpan Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine ‘fight cancer together’ with expanded partnership 

Ioannis Pashakis//November 11, 2021

An infusion bay overlooks a water feature at the WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center in Lebanon. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

WellSpan and Johns Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center have had a clinical and research collaboration since 2017 that saw Johns Hopkins provide specialists in pediatric, urology and plastic surgeries as well as second opinions on severe cancer cases, to WellSpan’s Southcentral Pennsylvania hospitals and cancer centers. 

This week, WellSpan and Johns Hopkins Medicine announced that they will be expanding that relationship to include shared treatment protocols, access to subspecialty physicians, clinical trials, peer-to-peer consultations and educational opportunities, all with the goal of treating and researching cancer. 

“Our relationship was a good one. It was our physicians reaching out if they had a patient they needed a second opinion on, or Hopkins reaching out about a trial. It was a smaller scope. Now we are really fighting cancer together,” said Dr. Roxanna Gapstur, president and CEO of WellSpan. “We are now collaborating more closely together.” 

The expanded relationship will allow WellSpan to offer more complex cancer care closer to home, with Johns Hopkins’ physicians providing care at WellSpan’s hospitals, said Kevin Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

“The diagnosis of cancer is difficult for a patient and family,” said Sowers. “To keep patients closer to home and not make them travel improves the care they can receive and improves their quality of life during that difficult time.” 

WellSpan’s cancer experts currently see nearly 4,000 new patients annually across all their cancer centers. Johns Hopkins and WellSpan plan to provide those experts with greater resources to tackle more difficult cases through educational opportunities as well as specialty tumor board conferences with Hopkins’ physicians. 

Tumor boards play an important role in cancer care as they allow specialists to gather together to discuss unusual or challenging cancer cases. With Johns Hopkins’ breadth of specialists and number of annual cases, WellSpan will have access to tumor board conferences specialized for certain kinds of cancer, said Gapstur. 

Telehealth will also be an important piece of the collaboration, with patients able to access Johns Hopkins’ providers from Baltimore and physicians able to contact one another for support, but could take until next year to be off the ground. 

 The collaboration agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine will extend to and benefit all of WellSpan’s cancer centers, including the WellSpan Adams Cancer Center, the WellSpan Ephrata Cancer Center, the WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center and WellSpan cancer care locations in Franklin County. 

As a leader in cancer care and research, Johns Hopkins maintains affiliation agreements with a number of hospitals. Its partnership with WellSpan, however, provides an opportunity for the Baltimore system to expand its outreach into Southcentral Pennsylvania, said Sowers. 

 “As we looked at Southern Pennsylvania, WellSpan was really a vibrant health system in that community that we felt we were kindred spirits with,” he said. “WellSpan has incredible clinicians today providing cancer care. This allows them to partner with us, provide advanced insight into diseases and determine what can be done versus what might need to come to a tertiary care center.”