Cancer Care Coming to State College

As part of the new Penn Highlands State College hospital opening this summer, cancer care services will be expanded in the region. Services will include radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Whoever coined the phrase “there’s no going home” never met James Lieb, DO, a board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist. When Dr. Lieb begins treating cancer patients at Penn Highlands State College, this will be his third return home.

“Although this is a new hospital, the people and the town aren’t new to me,” says Dr. Lieb, who was born and raised in State College. “I’m a State College guy.” At the Hahne Cancer Infusion Center located in State College, Dr. Lieb will be caring for patients with cancer and blood diseases. The largest part of his job is creating infusion therapy treatment plans for patients. Among those offered are standard chemotherapy, targeted therapies (drugs that seek out particular molecular targets to block) and immunotherapy (drugs that use the patient’s immune system to fight off cancer.

Medical oncology has become more technical, more complex and more individualized,” Dr. Lieb says. “But it’s working. We’re keeping people alive longer and turning cancer into more of a chronic disease.”

TrueBeam State College

“Opening the new Infusion Center will give Centre County residents more access to care, which will help decrease the amount of time patients have to wait to get treatment,” says Heather Franci, MBHA, BSN, RN, Service Line Director for Oncology Services. “At the Hahne Cancer Center, we have medical oncology and radiation oncology, the full gamut of services,” Franci says. “A lot of patients need both types of therapy, so it’s convenient to have them together.”

For patients who need treatments not available at Penn Highlands State College, Dr. Lieb will work with his Penn Highlands colleagues in DuBois.

“Most patients will be able to get everything they need here,” Dr. Lieb says. “We follow the latest recommendations by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), which is the bible for all cancer centers. We can deliver care equivalent to Memorial Sloan Kettering or other large cancer institutions.”

Hahne Cancer Center Offers Advanced Radiation Therapy

In State College, the Hahne Cancer Center also offers radiation therapy to treat cancer tumors. Radiation therapy, or radiation oncology, is the use of high-dose radiation to kill cancer cells. More than half of all cancer patients have radiation therapy as part or all of their treatment plan.

Penn Highlands State College offers the latest radiation therapy technology, using the Varian TrueBeam. The TrueBeam delivers precisely targeted radiation doses that are 40% to 140% higher than previous technology, making sessions shorter.

“Because radiation therapy is usually administered in multiple doses on consecutive days, often for several weeks, having this service close to home makes care easier on patients and families,” Franci says.

Patients, for example, might be able to use a local ride-sharing app to go to close-by appointments rather than needing to rely on a family member to take them to and from sessions farther away from home.

“The technological advancements have shortened session times and frequency, but most treatment plans require multiple visits,” Franci added