With a mission of "using every available resource to defeat cancer," MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, formerly the Orlando Cancer Center, was created in 1990. A cooperative effort between The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Orlando Health, MD Anderson - Orlando marked the first affiliate of the renowned cancer center outside Texas.
Long recognized as a world leader in innovative technology, cancer research, education, prevention and treatment, the collaborative effort extended the expertise of MD Anderson Cancer Center to residents of Florida and the southeastern United States.
With four medical oncologists and four radiation oncologists and 75 employees, Orlando Cancer Center began treating patients in 1991.The facility, housed throughout the downtown campus of Orlando Regional Medical Center, cared for the needs of cancer patients on an outpatient basis, providing chemotherapy, infusions and radiation therapy. Those requiring hospital admission were treated at ORMC.
In just a year's time, the center was featured in the third annual U.S. News & World Report"Best Hospitals" survey. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center ranked as the best cancer center in the nation, and the article pointed out Orlando Cancer Center's close relationship with Houston's specialists. Two years later, in 1994, the facility's name became MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando.
This close working relationship is demonstrated weekly through telemedicine, where the best minds, though a thousand miles apart, meet through teleconferences to consult on complex, challenging patient cases. Gathered around specially designed monitors, physicians in Orlando and Houston poke and prod one another with a battery of questions. With each electronic exchange of information, with each X-ray or pathology slide displayed, they map out a course of treatment.
As technologically advanced cancer treatment grew in Central Florida, the softer side of medicine came of age. In the early 1990s, MD Anderson - Orlando added a chaplain devoted to caring for patients and their families in the hospital. This service was soon expanded to include outpatients. Programs such as high tea, spiritual bibilotherapy, palliative care and a labyrinth also were offered to soothe the mind, body and soul.
During this time period, awareness for cancer care grew, and so too did the need for more services. In 1993, two women, Elaine Lustig and Sheila Solomon, forever changed the way breast cancer was viewed in Central Florida. A friendship forged on a golf course led to Women Playing For T.I.M.E. (Technology, Immediate diagnosis, Mammography and Education). Suddenly the words "breast cancer" were no longer whispered. Instead, WPFT along with MD Anderson - Orlando funded Pink October and women began talking about early detection and awareness. Over the years, this grassroots group has grown to a board of 47 women and has raised nearly $8.4 million for education, research and treatment.
As patients flocked to Central Florida, the cancer center staff soon realized a bigger facility would be needed.
In 1997, former President George Bush and the staff of MD Anderson - Orlando broke ground on a new state-of-the-art facility.
This dream was realized in 2003 when patients and medical staff moved into a new 220,000-square-foot facility, located at 1400 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando.
MD Anderson - Orlando was among the first in the nation to offer new treatment methods such as sterotactic interstitial brachytherapy in 1991 and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) in 1998; Zevalin, the first radioimmunotherapy medication approved by the Food & Drug Administration to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, in 2002; Novalis BrainLAB shaped beam surgery in 2002; and helical tomotherapy, image-guided intensity modulated radiation therapy, in 2003.
U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked MD Anderson Cancer Center as one of the top cancer treatment hospitals in the United States since 1990.