El Paso Children’s Hospital Blood and Cancer Center
The El Paso Children’s Hospital Blood and Cancer Center resides on the 7th floor as a 24 bed unit providing 24 hour care to infant through young adults. We are a comprehensive team consisting of oncologists, nurses, child life, and social workers closely working together to optimize care.
Our Blood and Cancer Center also provides an onsite infusion outpatient clinic which is staffed daily by attending Hematology and Oncology physicians and nurse practioners and nurses.
Most commonly treated problems:
All pediatric cancers: leukemia, brain tumors, soft tissue sarcomas and bone tumors
Kidney and liver tumors, etc.
Bleeding and Coagulation diseases
Pre and post stem cell transplantation care
Sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies
The Clinic has:
Finger-stick and phlebotomy capabilities
A dedicated lab for assessment of blood, bone marrow and spinal fluid
Dedicated fellowship oncology physician (or pharmacist)
Radiology facilities available within same facility: onsite radiology as well as
Individual bays with 26” TV with GetWellNetwork system that features dedicated
children’s programming and internet
Blood product transfusions
Bone marrow aspiration
Central line care
Intravenous/enteral fluid replacement
On site radiologic testing for diagnostic process
Comprehensive diagnostic testing to rule out cancer and blood disorders
Programs and activities to improve patient care:
Children’s Oncology Group: COG is the largest Pediatric Oncology group in the world and provides access to clinical and biological protocols to institutions that meet their eligibility criteria. The treatment of pediatric cancer is moving very fast and the only way to provide the latest care is to participate in these protocols. I worked hard for fifteen years to bring COG to El Paso but I could not do it alone. However, the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Program at El Paso was able to make it happen within 3 years of opening doors. We now have access to most of the protocols available at any other hospital in the nation.
Cancer Survivor and Late Effects Clinic: This program serves the needs of the growing population of cancer survivors five years from diagnosis and/or two years from treatment. These children go through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and are at risk of a number of medical problems. Unfortunately continuity of care is frequently lost when treatment ends or when they move on or get older. The PHO community is making an effort to identify these patients and register them in survivorship programs so these needs are identified and met. Our program makes an analysis of the treatment received and complications of treatment and makes a personalized surveillance program. Late effects are identified and addressed. Childhood Cancer Survivor Care – our team serves childhood cancer survivors through age 30.
Passport for Care (PFC): Cancer survivors are enrolled in Passport for Care (PFC), a web-based clinical tool that provides access to treatment summary, individualized evidence- and consensus-based screening guidelines, and follow-up information to the PHO physicians and educational materials in English and Spanish to the childhood cancer survivors and/or their parents through written material and a secured web-based PFC survivor portal. The web-based portal is active and enrolled patients can access their information and educational resources online in Spanish and English.
Personalized medicine: This ongoing project is seeking to offer individualized treatment to pediatric patients without standard therapeutic options using FDA approved drugs that block unique therapeutic targets in the patient’s tumors in combination with oral low-dose chemotherapy in selected patients. We have made advances in this direction and several patients have already been treated using genetic tumor testing from CLIA certified genetic laboratories. We are also pursuing a partnership with UTEP to add proteomic tumor data to help identify these therapeutic targets.
Tumor board: To improve the care of our patients all newly diagnosed cancer patients are presented at our weekly tumor board with the attendance of pediatric oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and other subspecialties relevant to the specific patient. Nurses, pharmacist, social workers and child life specialists are also in the attendance. The clinical presentation, physical, radiological and pathological findings are presented, staging and risk factors are discussed, relevant protocols and current literature presented, and a multidisciplinary treatment plan done.
Patient Care Conference: We have a weekly meeting with PHO physicians, clinical and research nurses, and pharmacists where all problem cases are discussed by the primary oncologist of the patient. The purpose of this meeting is to make the group aware of any issues related to the patient’s care and to make changes in treatment plan as a group. We have a diverse group of physicians with different backgrounds, trainings, experiences and strengths and this is a great format that gives us the opportunity to share our thoughts and the patient the benefit of five expert opinions.
Hematology Rounds: To improve the care of our hematology patients we have a monthly meeting with our PHO physicians, pathologists, pharmacists and nurses to present difficult or complex hematology cases and to review the relevant literature in order to make treatment plans.
Psychosocial conference: This weekly conference has the attendance of a Pediatric Oncologist, social workers, child life specialists, nurses, nutritionist and support groups to address the psychosocial issues of our patients.
HEAT support group: Cancer is a difficult and disruptive experience for teenagers at a time when most teens are asserting themselves, creating lifetime friendships and making plans for the future. The Hem/Onc Extremely Awesome Teens group is a support group for teenagers lead by Dr. Mary Lacaze.
Meet our physicians:
Dr. Mary Lacaze did her fellowship at Duke University and did a sub-specialty fellowship in bone marrow transplant. She is a senior PHO physician with 25 years of experience.
Dr. Lisa Hartman did her fellowship in San Diego and has a master’s in clinical research. In addition to her clinical responsibilities, she is the principal investigator for Children Oncology Group at EPCH. She is responsible for making sure we have all the COG phase II and phase III studies available so we can provide the most advanced care to our children and that we meet the standards that COG requires. She has also brought many non-COG study protocols not only for Oncology patients but also for Hematology, and is working hard to bring even more.
Dr. Ranjan Bista completed his fellowship at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and did extensive work in the basic science laboratory where he gained a deep understanding of the genetics and immunology of pediatric cancer. He also gained extensive clinical experience as faculty in Phoenix. He has been a great asset to our program and has raised the quality of care of our children.
Dr. Erika Lopez-Bertiery is the latest addition to our program. She comes from UT Southwestern in Dallas. She has extensive experience in clinical research and has a special interest in disparities in pediatric cancer in the Hispanic population. This is especially relevant to the large majority of the population that we serve in El Paso.
Norma Bermudez has almost 20 years of experience with Pediatric Hematology Oncology patients and joined us as a PHO pediatric nurse practitioner last year.
Amanda French has 7 years of experience with Pediatric Hematology Oncology patients and joined us as a PHO pediatric nurse practitioner this year.
Benjamin Caracomo completed his fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital and did two additional years of basic science work at the research laboratory where I studied the biology of retinoblastoma and medulloblastoma. In addition he worked at Tampa Children’s Hospital for three years before moving to El Paso as a full time oncologist 20 years ago.