Penrose-St. Francis Health Services and St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center have joined the MD Anderson Cancer Network, the Centennial-based parent company of the southern Colorado hospitals announced Tuesday.

Penrose-St. Francis, which operates Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs, offers cancer treatment and testing as well as genetic counseling on cancer risk through its Penrose Cancer Center at Penrose Hospital, 2222 N. Nevada Ave. St. Mary-Corwin offers many of the same services at its Dorcy Cancer Center in Pueblo.

“We are more than members of a network; we are a beacon of hope,” said Dr. Bill Murphy, who holds the John S. Dunn Sr. distinguished chair of diagnostic imaging at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “We have to get rid of this scourge (cancer). We have thousands of employees and physicians, including a Nobel Prize winner, but we need help to fight this scourge together.”

Murphy spoke at a news conference Tuesday at the Penrose Cancer Center where Centennial-based Centura Health and the hospitals announced the affiliation with the 28-member network.at the Penrose Cancer Center.

The eventthat was filled with personal stories on how cancer has touched the lives of the speakers. Murphy recounted how he lost both parents and a brother to lung cancer; two other siblings are survivors of different kinds of cancer. Centura CEO Peter Banko had just described how his father died from a cancerous brain tumor discovered when he was 51, the same age Banko is now.

MD Anderson has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation’s top or second-best cancer hospital every year since the magazine began its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey in 1990. Centura and MD Anderson began discussing the partnership early last year, a discussion that grew out of a relationship Banko had with the cancer care giant since 2000. Banko said Centura wanted to bring the latest developments in cancer care to its southern Colorado hospitals so patients wouldn’t have to travel to Denver for such care.

“This affiliation builds on the work and clinical advancements of our regional cancer care experts and connects them with nationally-known leaders in cancer care,” Centura said Tuesday in a news release. “This affiliation provides Penrose and St. Mary-Corwin cancer center caregivers with access to a wide range of multidisciplinary care resources, including disease-specific and evidence-based guidelines, treatment plans and best practices developed by MD Anderson.”

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The affiliation also could allow eligible patients from the two hospitals to participate in some future clinical trials, and oncologists and surgeons will have an opportunity to present rare or complex cases and seek consultation with MD Anderson experts, the release said. MD Anderson officials said they also plan to conduct educational events for doctors, nurses, therapists and other clinical workers in southern Colorado and other locations.

“The possibilities are endless when you combine the expertise of the leading cancer in the nation with our connected community of caregivers on a mission to build whole person care,” Banko said in the release.

Both hospitals had to meet “rigorous” clinical guidelines to become certified members of the MD Anderson network, including clinical practice reviews, off-site evaluations of medical, radiation and surgical oncology programs, diagnostic imaging, pathology and laboratory, pharmacy, IV therapy and inpatient oncology services, the release said.

At a working lunch with the City Council, Mayor John Suthers praised the new partnership’s ability to keep Colorado Springs residents from having to travel to Houston for MD Anderson’s renowned cancer care.

“It’s a really exciting thing,” Suthers said.

The Penrose Cancer Center was created in 1941 from an El Pomar Foundation grant to improve cancer care after the death of co-founder Spencer Penrose from cancer. The cancer center has grown since then and now has 15 doctors and more than 100 nurses, therapists and administrative support staff.

Banner Health added its hospitals in Loveland and Greeley as partner sites in August to its Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Ariz.

The Gazette’s Jakob Rodgers contributed to this story.

Staff Writer Jakob Rodgers contributed to this story

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