Through a network of highly trained cancer practitioners, opportunities to participate in national clinical trials and more, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) is bringing world-class cancer care to a hometown level.
Drs. Maen Hussein, Vipul M. Patel and Patrick Acevedo are board certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine.
At The Dawn Of It’s 30th Year… Florida Cancer Specialists expands into Ocala to offer world-class community oncology
Medical oncologists Patrick Acevedo, M.D., Maen Hussein, M.D., and Vipul M. Patel, M.D., are part of a statewide network of knowledgeable professionals practicing in over 80 Florida locations. They are bringing their experience and expertise to a new, convenient location here in Marion County. So what brings this nationally recognized practice to Ocala?
“When you have cancer, the last thing you need is to drive for hours to get treatment,” says Dr. Hussein. “The heart of our mission at Florida Cancer Specialists is to bring the most advanced and personalized treatments to communities, both large and small, so that our patients can be close to where they live and be surrounded by their families and friends.”
The quality care at Florida Cancer Specialists is the product of many components. For Dr. Acevedo, one of the most important is the physician-patient relationship.
“It’s about the individual attention we give to patients,” he says. “We develop joint decision making between physician and patient for optimal outcomes.”
“I think that’s the most important part of oncology,” adds colleague Dr. Patel. “You see these patients so often, sometimes every week, so you get to know them. It’s important to have a good rapport and have empathy for them. This is traumatizing for a patient when, for no fault of their own, they have cancer. You have to be able to guide them emotionally and medically, more than in any other field I think.”
The experts at FCS believe proximity to quality care is paramount. The Ocala office not only provides a convenient location to patients but also offers multiple services under one roof.
“One of the reasons we made the investment in establishing a local office is that we want to be close to patients’ homes and have an open door, especially when patients aren’t feeling their best,” Dr. Acevedo explains. “Having quick and easy access to care means they won’t become sicker and wind up with unnecessary hospitalizations. We do all the lab work, all clinical trials, doctor visits and administration (chemotherapy) right here, in one location.”
The physicians of Florida Cancer Specialists are dedicated to providing top-tier medical care for patients. In addition to providing cutting-edge treatments, offering world-class care means making national clinical trials available to patients, an element missing from Ocala until now, as a wide selection of clinical trials are often exclusive to academic medical institutions.
“FCS offers all phases of clinical trials, including phase 1 trials, which are rare and usually exclusive to university medical centers,” Dr. Patel says. “Clinical trial participants receive the standard of care plus a new drug, so you’re getting the best cancer treatment available, with a new drug added on. They’re drugs that have shown promise in treating cancer and drugs that we believe will improve what we’re already doing, so they do not mean sub-par treatment.”
Currently, Florida Cancer Specialists has approximately 70 clinical trials available and is able to enroll patients locally, if they qualify.
“We have trials that are changing the standard of care, and a patient can participate in a clinical trial right here in our local office. That’s the advantage of a community practice; it’s closer to home,” Dr. Hussein adds. “I’ve noticed people are more accepting of clinical trials now, and patients have a choice—they can say no and they can always stop. The patients who go through clinical trials are monitored for safety, which is the number one concern.”
Dr. Hussein acknowledges the collective effort at FCS; he says the physicians, nurses and clinical staff work together to become better and improve management and treatment.He knows clinical trials are not only important for those participating but also for every cancer patient who follows.
“Cancer medicine is better now because of the heroes, who are our patients who go through trials,” he says. “Clinical trials are how we improve. These people don’t only help themselves by getting something that could save their life, but they’re helping us find out what does and doesn’t work.”
Dr. Acevedo seconds this.
“Clinical trials are a huge opportunity,” he says, “not only for future cancer patients but also for those currently on a trial. Of the drugs we’re bringing into the clinic, 50 percent will be approved by the FDA and will be added to the armory for oncologists to fight cancer in the future. We give patients access to those drugs well in advance of the FDA approval, so a patient who is on a clinical trial can benefit immediately, versus having to wait years.”
Two examples of recent breakthroughs are targeted therapy and personalized medicine. Personalized medicine involves creating DNA-based profiles on each patient’s cancer, so therapies can be tailored to an individual based on their cancer’s specifications instead of giving everyone an umbrella treatment. Targeted therapy also involves genetic research. Dr. Patel explains that currently, most types of cancer are treated “broadly.”
“We administer agents that attack cells dividing rapidly, so these drugs attack hair cells, nail cells, cancer cells and more. With targeted therapy, we can look for specific changes in the DNA of the cancer cells and these drugs will target those mutations and only attack the cancer cells.”
Another important service FCS offers is financial counseling. The practice recognizes cancer treatment is expensive. Financial counselors are available at every FCS office to assist patients in meeting their financial responsibilities. In addition, for patients who qualify, FCS has a philanthropic foundation dedicated to helping patients overcome financial hardship that may be a result of treatment. Modest, one-time grants are provided for non-medical living expenses such as rent, utilities, or car payments. This support allows patients to focus on healing.
“Because we are part of a large, statewide practice, we are able to offer a variety of resources that allow us to help our patients even more,” Dr. Hussein says of the foundation. “As a medical oncologist, it is extremely gratifying to know that cancer patients who are struggling to make ends meet can find assistance and support from the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation.”
The mission of Florida Cancer Specialists is delivered daily by the more than 170 physicians in the practice, including Drs. Acevedo, Hussein and Patel here in Ocala. FCS strives to provide the most advanced cancer treatment, using cutting-edge technologies, in a setting where patients can be close to home and surrounded by family and friends.
Recognized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) with a national Clinical Trials Participation Award, FCS offers patients access to more clinical trials than any private oncology practice in Florida. FCS physicians are consistently ranked nationally as Top Doctors by U.S. News & World Report and provide leadership and consultation in the state’s leading hospitals. FCS serves patients on the Gulf Coast from Naples to the greater Tampa Bay area, north as far as Tallahassee, in Orlando and surrounding Central Florida communities and on the East Coast in Daytona/Palm Coast and Palm Beach County.
Florida Cancer Specialists
1630 SE 18th Street, Suite. 602 Ocala, Florida 34471