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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Community Health Network is expanding its connection with one of the nation’s leading cancer hospitals.

For nine years, Community has promoted its status as part of the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Network. The link makes it easier for patients to get second opinions from the Houston-based hospital, and has shaped Community’s procedures to follow treatment protocols developed there. Now Community will be one of six MD Anderson partner institutions nationwide, and the only one in the Midwest.

Community medical oncology director Sumeet Bhatia says instead of just “quality control” in the implementation of MD Anderson standards of care, the elevation of the hospitals’ status will expand patients’ access to clinical trials and advanced treatments which otherwise would require travel to Houston. He says it should reduce a potential financial barrier to treatment.

And Bhatia says the partnership will create a more integrated, patient-focused approach to care. Instead of meeting separately with a medical oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, pathologist, and internal medicine specialist, Community says patients will see their entire care team in one visit. And Bhatia says instead of reading journal articles, doctors at Community can consult directly with MD Anderson researchers who specialize in a particular type or subtype of cancer.

U.S. News and World Report has ranked MD Anderson as one of the nation’s top two cancer hospitals every year since 1990.