Cancer Centers in Buffalo Attract Local, Out-of-State Patients

Roswell Park and Erie County Medical Center offer a wide range of treatments for cancer, including a number of clinical trials

By Julie Halm

Nobody ever wants to hear the words, “it’s cancer.”

When they do, however, there are critical choices to be made, including where a person chooses to seek treatment.

Here in Western New York, there are several options for patients should they receive that news, which is delivered to just shy of 115,000 New York state residents on an annual basis, according to the New York State Department of Health’s Cancer Registry and Cancer Statistics.

According to that same source, “cancer is the second most common chronic disease in New York state and is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death.”

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center declares in its very name exactly the patients which it aims to treat, and they do so at great volume on an annual basis.

According to the most recent vital statistics, measuring the center’s last fiscal year running from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023, the facility, which has a total of 157 beds, had a total number of 49,105 patients under active care, according to statistics published by the center. In addition to more established treatments, Roswell Park currently has 193 active cancer-related clinical trials assessing some new therapy or approach — and another 40-plus set to open within the next 6 months, according to officials.

While many patients come to Roswell Park from the Western New York region, many also come from across the country seeking care. Last year, Roswell Park treated patients from a total of 42 states as well as one foreign country.

According to the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, based on data collected between 2016 and 2020, New York state is one of the top 10 states for invasive cancer incidence rates, with other states in that group including New Jersey, Kentucky, Iowa, and West Virginia.

The most prevalent cancers found in patients very based on age, ethnicity, gender and other factors, which can impact where those diagnosed chose to seek their treatments. According to the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the most commonly diagnosed cancers in North American men are, in order of prevalence, prostate; lung and bronchus; colon and rectum; bladder; and melanoma of the skin. There is some alignment among North American women with the top five by gender being, in order, breast, lung and bronchus; colon and rectum; uterus corpus and uterus NOS; and melanoma of the skin.

Regardless of the diagnosis, residents of the Western New York region and those considering coming to this area for treatment are not limited in their choices.

The Erie County Medical Center also offers a variety of treatments for patients with cancer at the Center for Cancer Care, including specialties in head and neck, plastic and reconstructive surgery, dental and medical oncology, maxillofacial prosthetics, and breast oncology, according to the organization’s website.

While many cancer patients have chosen to be treated at ECMC, among the most famous is former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelley, who has sought various treatments there since being diagnosed with cancer of the upper jaw in 2013 and since experiencing multiple recurrences.

Just last year, the Commission on Cancer, a program of the American College of Surgeons, granted the Buffalo hospital a three-year accreditation, meaning that it has met 34 COC quality care standards and will be evaluated every three years to determine if the facility “Maintain(s) levels of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive patient-centered care.”

ECMC is also a member of the Great Lakes Cancer Care Collaborative.

Perhaps with these qualifications in mind, 2,433 new cancer patients were treated at the Center for Cancer Care ECMC in 2022 and 2023.

That tally includes a variety of treatments ranging from chemotherapy, surgical interventions and those seeking second opinions regarding their care. Of those individuals, several traveled considerable distances to seek care at ECMC, including three patients from Ontario, Canada, 15 patients from out of state and 26 who came from other parts of New York outside of the Western New York region.

Like Roswell Park, ECMC is also participating in clinical trials, with 12 clinical research projects in total at the facility at this time.

Unlike Roswell Park, ECMC treats a wide range of patients, including those seeking emergency and trauma care, bariatric surgery, behavioral health services, and orthopedic and sports medicine, among other things.

Whether a cancer patient hails from the city or its surrounding suburbs, out of state or even out of the country, they have several options right here in Buffalo.