World-Class Urologic Oncology Care for South Texas at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System

By Thomas Crocker
Friday, May 31, 2019
Specialty: 

In just two years, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System has assembled a team of nearly 40 urologic oncologists and other specialists from across San Antonio that focuses on diagnosing, treating and preventing urologic cancers in south Texas, close to where patients live and work.

Established in 2017, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System’s Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program brings together oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, geneticists, pathologists, radiologists, interventional radiologists and other specialists from CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, UT Health San Antonio and medical practices across the city to care for patients with a variety of genitourinary cancers, including:

  • Adrenal cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Urethral/penile cancer

The team also treats many nonmalignant conditions, including benign prostatic hyperplasia, bladder pain or dysfunction, hematuria, kidney stones, and sexual dysfunction.

“Our Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program features physicians who are known around the world as experts in their fields,” says Ian Thompson Jr., MD, President of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center. “Having operated and managed patients side by side with these physicians, I know they’re not only gifted technically, but also visionary leaders. Some are the designers and principal investigators of several clinical trials in oncology. That is in keeping with our philosophy: Visualize the future and provide it to our patients. These physicians are also compassionate people who care for patients like members of their own families, which is the way we practice medicine at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System.”

“The members of the Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program highly value the input of our patients’ primary care physicians. We consider ourselves to be the players in the orchestra, and the primary care physicians are the conductors.”
— Ian Thompson Jr., MD, President of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center

Multidisciplinary Care and a Hub-and-Spoke Model


Anthony Tolcher, MD, FRCPC, FACP, determines clinical trials for patients

True to its multidisciplinary makeup, the Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program rests on a foundation of collaboration among clinicians from many specialties. One of the clearest examples of this approach is the program’s monthly tumor board, where urologic oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists and others meet to determine optimal management strategies for patients with complex malignancies.

With members spread out across San Antonio, the Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program follows a hub-and-spoke model of care, with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center residing at the center.

“Most patient care, such as imaging studies or endoscopic studies of the bladder, occurs in a urologic oncologist or medical oncologist’s office in the community,” Dr. Thompson Jr. says. “A key area of focus for our program is transitions of care from a physician’s office to the hospital and then back to the physician’s office to ensure we properly coordinate care for the complex management of urologic cancers. One aspect of the program that will help us do just that is the new oncology unit we’re building at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center, which we hope to open at the end of the year.”

The Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program features a variety of steps to ensure patients have a seamless experience when they enter CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center for procedures.

“We’ve designed an easy-flowing process that allows patients to complete preadmission testing and registration before the day of surgery,” says Ian Thompson III, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center. “Once patients have their procedures, they typically go to a dedicated urology floor where the nurses and other staff members are familiar with caring for patients who’ve had urologic surgery, many of whom often have drains and catheters that require special care.”

A Wide Range of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Options


Ian Thompson III, MD, MBA, is Chief Medical Officer at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - Medical Center.

The Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program features the full gamut of diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities. One example is blue light cystoscopy to detect bladder tumors, of which CHRISTUS Santa Rosa was an early adopter in Texas.

“Ours was the second location in the state to adopt this blue light technology,” Dr. Thompson III says. “It allows us to more effectively detect bladder cancers and intervene earlier.”

Surgeons in the program perform a variety of open, laparoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures, including:

  • Cystectomy
  • Prostatectomy
  • Nephrectomy and partial nephrectomy
  • Nephroureterectomy
  • Retroperitoneal lymphadenectomy

Other specialists offer alternative treatment options for patients whose age or comorbidities may preclude surgery. One of them is Venkat Ramana Reddy, MD, an interventional radiologist at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System and River City Imaging Associates who performs thermal ablation and cryoablation to treat renal cell carcinoma. Candidates include individuals whose tumors are less than 3 to 4 centimeters in size.

“I make a half-centimeter incision, insert a probe using CT guidance, and the probe delivers heat or cold to the tumor, destroying the tumor cells,” Dr. Reddy says. “The results of ablation are as good as surgical resection of the tumor, complication rates are quite low and recovery is much faster. Patients go home the same day and can resume normal activities.”

Dr. Reddy also cares for patients with complications that result from urologic cancers by performing minimally invasive procedures using imaging guidance.

Driving the Future of Care


Venkat Reddy, MD, provides the latest in minimally invasive radiology procedures at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital - Medical Center.

For Dr. Thompson Jr., the most exciting aspect of the program he spearheads is the ability to offer qualified patients some of the newest therapeutics, such as those undergoing testing in phase 1 clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

“We’re able to integrate new immunologic or targeted therapeutics and conduct genetic analyses of tumors to identify targets for them,” Dr. Thompson Jr. says. “The greatest opportunity we provide is in the use of next-generation agents and intelligent application of technology — not just new technology because it’s new, but technology that increases the likelihood cancer will be cured, and as importantly, reduces the risk of side effects.”

A key player in the Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program’s efforts to offer convenient, local access to leading-edge therapeutics is Robert Svatek, MD, a urologist at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System and the UT Health San Antonio, who is leading a national clinical trial investigating the efficacy of priming the immune system prior to administering the immunotherapy Bacillus Calmette-Guerin to patients with bladder cancer.

Another driver of research for the Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program is medical oncologist Anthony Tolcher, MD, FRCPC, FACP, CEO, Co-Founder and Director of Clinical Research at NEXT Oncology and a member of Texas Oncology, who, by his own count, has been involved in clinical trials that have led to the approval of more than 17 oncologic drugs.

“My role in the program is to bring new agents to the treatment of patients who have not experienced success with standard therapies, such as surgery and radiation therapy,” Dr. Tolcher says. “This provides patients with access to immunologic, targeted and cell-based therapies. When a physician refers a patient with metastatic or hard-to-treat cancer to my partners and me at Texas Oncology, we determine whether a clinical trial is open that is suitable for him. If we find one, and the patient is agreeable, we enroll him.”

The Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program fills a gap in local care by serving as a gateway to novel therapeutics, according to Dr. Tolcher.

“Patients now have access to newer, better therapies when before, they didn’t have a go-to center for them,” he says. “We’re able to bring clinical trials to patients so they don’t have to travel elsewhere to find them. For the future, the big question is: Can we marry patient genomic information to therapeutic advances? That remains a work in progress. What we can accomplish now with genomic sequencing of tumors and identifying targets is probably going to transform our therapies in the next 10 to 20 years.”


Visit christussantarosa.org or call 1-877-250-3627 (DOCS) to learn more about the Comprehensive Urologic Oncology Program.