Dr. Eric Winer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently spoke at the Northeast Harbor library about a new partnership between Dana-Farber and several Maine hospitals. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Cancer care closer to home

MOUNT DESERT — For many years, Mount Desert Island-area cancer patients have traveled to Boston to seek treatment and advice at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Now, thanks to new partnerships with Northern Light Health (formerly Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems) and MDI Hospital, Dana-Farber physicians and researchers are available closer to home.

“It’s been two years in December that Dana-Farber and Northern Light have been working together,” Dr. Eric Winer, Chief Medical Strategy Officer at Dana-Farber, said during a recent visit to Northeast Harbor. The Northern Light Cancer Care facility in Brewer “is the regional center that coordinates care with local hospitals,” he said.

“Dana-Farber has been a big supporter of our practice for decades,” said Dr. Thomas Openshaw, head of Oncology Research at Northern Light Cancer Care. “[Now it’s] a different level of collaboration.”

Openshaw said his team presents cases to panels of experts at Dana-Farber using video conferencing. “I think that’s very important and keeps us well informed,” he said. He says the doctors also enjoy working with each other more closely — it’s a collegial benefit for them.

“Happy doctors are better doctors,” Winer said.

“The whole idea is to allow patients to get the best possible care in their local environment,” Winer said. “Patients can be up here and feel like they’re getting the same care they’d be getting in Boston.”

For many years, he said, Dana-Farber was “a boutique cancer operation.” The institute didn’t see many patients; the few patients they had were seen by doctors in training. “Then Dana-Farber made treating patients [a priority],” he said. “Now there are 25 breast cancer specialists.”

That has been a win-win, the doctors said, as including patients from a larger geographic area improves the quality of the trial.

Patients on MDI have access to the Dana-Farber Cancer Care Collaborative through Dr. Philip Brooks, a staff physician at Cancer Care of Maine, who practices at MDI Hospital on a regular basis. He also practices in Ellsworth and Blue Hill.

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