Slated to open in mid-2024, the Calgary Cancer Centre will be a major milestone in cancer treatment and care in Alberta. The state-of-the-art facility, which spans 1.4 million square feet and cost $1.4 billion, is expected to be the largest in Canada and second largest in North America. The facility will be a significant upgrade from the Tom Baker Cancer Centre that has been in operation for over 40 years.
Designed with care and compassion at its core, the centre will be a leading health care facility and centre for research and education in the field of oncology. It will feature 160 inpatient beds and more than 100 patient exam rooms, delivering integrated cancer care under one roof. Significantly expanded outpatient services will also be offered.
Dr. Don Morris is a medical oncologist and department head of academic and clinical oncology at the University of Calgary (U of C). He is also facility medical director at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and will occupy the same role when the Calgary Cancer Centre opens its doors.
When asked what the Calgary Cancer Centre means for patients and their families, Dr. Morris explains, “It affords an opportunity to centralize a myriad of distributed cancer activities into a comprehensive cancer centre that houses state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge therapeutic strategies. It will allow patients and families to be partners in their own care and treated under the rubric of precision oncology; so they get the best treatment at the right time.”
He adds, “Pre-clinical and clinical research is embedded throughout the entire building. Every floor has research activity that is co-located adjacent to clinical activity.”
“The centre will be a learning health network, a living laboratory, an eco-system of sorts,” says Dr. Morris. “It will be a building that will weave the concepts and deliverables of research into best care. From a patient and family point of view, this means for example access to clinical trials and participation in and benefit from health service research.”
While the centre will focus on traditional cancer treatments and research, an important feature will be the Alberta Complementary Therapy and Integrative Oncology Centre (ACTION Centre). The ACTION Centre will provide patients under a research lens access to a range of complementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, arts-based therapies, massage therapy and more. It will be the first of its kind in Canada and play an important role in investigating how best to help patients manage the side effects of cancer treatment, improve their quality of life, and ultimately, achieve better treatment outcomes.
For the past 20 years, Dr. Linda Carlson has been a leading figure in integrative oncology. She is currently professor, Department of Oncology, Cumming School of Medicine at the U of C and director of the ACTION Centre. Dr. Carlson’s area of expertise is in psychosocial oncology, which is a part of cancer care that deals with the social and emotional aspects of being diagnosed with cancer.
“From a patient perspective, they will notice they only have to go to one place for all their appointments. And the centre is going to be beautiful. There is a patient and family advisory committee that has advised on all aspects of the building to make it friendly and esthetically pleasing. It’s going to have more services for patient and wellness support. It’s meant to be a more soothing environment altogether and will even feature a healing garden. For the staff and researchers, it’s bringing all the research back into the cancer centre, which has been scattered all over the city. And Integrative Oncology, for the first time, is going to have its own space.”
Carlson adds that the new facility will provide a more person-centred holistic focus in care, which means looking at the person from their social environment. “What are their values? What are their beliefs? Having access to these different complementary therapies along with conventional cancer treatment can help patients cope better with the different symptoms and side effects.”
There are many survivor stories and with the Calgary Cancer Centre, hopefully that number will increase. In 2014, Carmelina Baccari was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, she is healthy and happy. “My personal experience and journey with cancer almost seems surreal. You never think that it will happen to you until it does. I was committed to a healthy diet while I was going through treatments and am still very conscious of what I put into my body. It was all the parts together that worked for me, and I am grateful to be here today.”
Baccari’s battle with cancer led to her teaming up with friend Kacie, who lost her father to cancer in 2007. Together, they are the Nipple Sisters. “We work together as certified paramedical pigmentation specialists focusing on areola restoration through a give-back initiative called Procedures for a Positive Purpose. We have a lighthearted approach to a very serious matter. Our goal is to help women feel good, confident and whole again. Areola restoration is symbolic of the end of the journey. It is emotional and triumphant.”
“The Calgary Cancer Centre will support those who need it the most and give hope to every individual diagnosed with cancer. Hope is what is needed. The centre and people who work there all represent that hope,” says Baccari.
Many ACTION Centre programs are made possible through donations via the OWN.CANCER campaign. Jessa Landmann volunteers her time as a member of the steering committee for the ACTION Centre, where she is also involved with the education and fundraising committees. “I am passionate about the centre’s mission and believe that it will make a significant difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.”
The fundraising committee for the ACTION Centre is currently working on several initiatives to raise funds for research, training and clinical programs beyond what is provided by the OWN campaign. The committee plans to host a variety of events to raise the necessary funds. It is also seeking donations from individuals and organizations who are passionate about improving cancer treatment and care through research and access to complementary therapies.
Double your impact – consider making your OWN.CANCER gift during UCalgary Giving Day. Between April 1 and 27, donations will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift, and only while matching funds last. Give securely online at ucalgary.ca/support-own-cancer with ‘ACTION Integrative Oncology’ in the comment section.
Through the OWN.CANCER campaign, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services have partnered together with a goal to raise $250 million in support of improved cancer research, treatment and care at the new Calgary Cancer Centre. To date, it has raised $117 million, across many diverse areas of cancer care and research.
As for other benefits, Dr. Morris is proud to say that the Calgary Cancer Centre will put the city on the map. “It’s not that we’re not already on the map, but it puts us on the map as one of the premier comprehensive cancer centres in North America. As well, it provides a home such that for those people going through a scary new diagnosis situation, they feel comfortable, warm, welcome and that they’re receiving cutting edge treatment. They don’t need to look outside of Calgary, outside of Alberta. They can feel like they are in ‘the place’ for treatment.”