There usually aren't many positive phrases associated with chemotherapy treatment rooms.
But for Dr. Generosa Grana, the 18-patient infusion center at the new MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper is "the highlight of the building."
The infusion wing, where patients at the $100 million cancer center that opened today in Camden will receive treatment, is filled with plush, heated chairs for patients. Some chairs sit in a row so patients can chat; others are secluded in individual rooms for those who desire more privacy. Pieces by New Jersey artists hang on the walls. More seats and padded benches, meant for family members, surround the patients, medical cabinets and IV stands.
"The idea was to make it peaceful," said Grana, the director of the center, which is the result of a partnership between Camden's Cooper University Health Care and Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the country's premier cancer treatment and research facilities.
The venture is MD Anderson's first partnership in the Northeast.
Officials say the 103,050-square-foot center will give patients in the region access to MD Anderson's cutting-edge treatment procedures, clinical trials and research.
The facility is slated to house cancer specialists from a number of disciplines, as well as pathology, laboratory, diagnostic imaging and outpatient care services. About 50 physicians will treat patients in the building, Grana said.
The first floor of the center is devoted to radiation oncology and diagnostic imaging. The second floor houses clinical rooms and business operations, and the third floor includes the chemotherapy infusion area, pharmacy, laboratory, patient support services and other offices.
The center adds to the Philadelphia region's major cancer facilities. It will compete with treatment sites at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
U.S. News and World report has rated MD Anderson's Texas center as the top cancer hospital in the country for the last seven years. The hospital is also a leader in securing federal research grants and other funding from the National Cancer Institute.
Cancer "invades our lives and brings despair and often tragedy," said Dr. Ronald DePinho, MD Anderson's president. But knowledge is the disease's vulnerability, he said.
"Knowledge is what compels us to join forces with other like-minded institutions," he said.
The facility is also expected to give a boost to Camden, one of New Jersey's poorest and most crime-ridden cities.
"Now we are moving Camden forward," Mayor Dana Redd said. "We are offering the best health care in the region."
And before the first patient even stepped into an exam room, officials were already talking of possibilities of expanding both the new center and its operations throughout the region.
"We will continue to expand this partnership," said George E. Norcross III, the chairman of Cooper's board and an owner of Interstate General Media, the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.
"Our vision to bring the best possible cancer care to the region takes another step forward," Norcross added.
Grana said the facility has space for more floors.
"We left ourselves room for growth," she said.