Rush partners with top-ranked MD Anderson, aiming to give patients more access to the latest cancer treatments

Rush University System for Health is teaming up with top-ranked University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center — a move that’s expected to give Rush patients better access to the latest cancer treatments and help Rush compete against other Chicago-area hospitals.

Under the partnership, which was announced Friday, Rush Cancer Center is being renamed Rush MD Anderson Cancer Center. Rush will retain ownership of its program. Neither leaders of Rush nor MD Anderson would discuss the financial details of the arrangement.

As part of the agreement, protocols and cancer treatment plans at Rush will mirror those available at MD Anderson. Rush patients will be able to participate in more clinical trials, and Rush doctors will be able to consult with MD Anderson doctors on treatment decisions, according to Rush.

“Rush has a top-rated cancer program … what we don’t have is the volume of clinical trials and access to genetic studies that MD Anderson brings,” Rush President and CEO Dr. Omar Lateef told the Tribune. “What we can do is … offer a broader diversity of treatment options to some patients that may qualify for cutting edge care that’s not otherwise available to those patients here in Chicago.”

Dr. Amina Ahmed, director of the Rush MD Anderson Cancer Center, said patients will benefit from the expertise of doctors at Rush and MD Anderson. For example, Rush doctors will be able to discuss particularly rare or complex cases with physicians at MD Anderson.

“There will be more clinical trials, there will be more novel treatments, there will be more expertise,” Ahmed said.

Rush is the seventh hospital in the country to partner with MD Anderson on its cancer program. MD Anderson has also partnered with hospitals and health systems in Louisiana, Indiana, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Colorado.

“Our commitment to eradicating cancer extends to eradicating cancer around the nation,” said Dr. Peter WT Pisters, president of MD Anderson, in an interview. “This is an ideal partnership that allows us to extend our mission into a very important market in the United States.”

The partnership is the latest move by a Chicago-area hospital to differentiate itself amid a competitive local health care landscape.

University of Chicago Medicine is in the process of building a new, more than $800 million cancer hospital in Hyde Park in hopes of giving patients on the South Side greater access to cancer care while attracting patients from across the region. University of Chicago Medical Center is ranked as the 16th best hospital for cancer care by U.S. News & World Report.

Meanwhile, U.S. News ranks Northwestern Memorial Hospital 18th in the nation for cancer care.

Rush is ranked 30th in the nation for cancer care, the third highest ranking in Illinois. U.S. News ranks MD Anderson Cancer Center as No. 1 in the country for cancer.

“Our mission is now really just to get the best outcomes for patients,” Lateef said. “Our relationship with MD Anderson will improve those outcomes by adding to the armamentarium of treatment protocols we can offer patients, primarily in that research and clinical trial area. I think it should enhance our overall rankings.”

Rush began talking with MD Anderson years ago, before the pandemic, about pursuing a partnership, and resumed those conversations “as we started coming out of the pandemic,” Lateef said.

Rush MD Anderson Cancer Center will provide care at multiple locations in the city and suburbs. In Chicago, that will include at Rush’s new Joan and Paul Rubschlager Building, and in the suburbs, at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Copley Healthcare Center in Yorkville.