The SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital has inaugurated the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona, the first single-speciality hospital in pediatric oncology in Spain and the second in Europe. The project kicked off in 2017 with the #ParaLosValientes [ForTheBrave] campaign that, between February of that year and October 2018, raised 30 million euros for the construction of the new facility. In a second phase of the campaign, an additional 7 million were obtained to finish the works, thanks to the 15 founding donors, hundreds of companies, and thousands of individuals.
With the opening of the centre, the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital expects to increase its capacity to care for new cases of pediatric cancer. Currently, 300 new cases are seen annually, plus 105 cases due to relapses or second opinion consultations; the new facility will allow up to 400 new cases to be seen each year, a 35% increase.
The inauguration ceremony was presided over by the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, and included the attendance of other local officials, health care workers, patients and representatives of over 150 companies and entities whose donations helped make the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center a reality. Among them were the founding donors, which together accounted for more than 80% of the funds raised during the campaign: Fundación Leo Messi, Fundación Barça, Maria Àngels Recolons Morer, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Fundación “la Caixa”, Esteve, Andbank, Atrys, Fundació Nou Mil·lenni, Asociación Benéfica Anita, Fundación Joan Ribas Araquistain, Rosalia Gispert Barral, Invest for Children, Roman Rosell Dolset and families and patients' associations.
In the presentation, the General Director of the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital, Manel del Castillo, remarked that "the donors' contribution has made the new centre a unique example of social partnership in a project of these characteristics. This is a strategic project for Sant Joan de Déu, which has long been a standard bearer in Spain in the care of children's cancer, and an international reference in the treatment of specific tumours. With it we are expanding our capacity to treat these patients with the first and only single-speciality hospital in Spain and just the second in Europe, at the service of children and adolescents with cancer, and their families".
Gloria García, head of fundraising at the Hospital, also expressed gratitude toward "all those individuals and entities whose donations have made this dream come true". Garcia recalled that "along with the key contributions of companies and entities, more than 100,000 individuals have also collaborated financially in the project through the more than 200 initiatives of all kinds that have left us wonderful stories of solidarity".
New facilities for better care of cancer patients
The SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona is located in a 14,000 square meter building connected to the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital by means of a raised covered gallery. It is distributed over five floors, with 70% spaces for medical care and 30% for research. As a whole, the new centre has 37 individual rooms, 8 transplant chambers, 26 cubicles for the Day Hospital and 21 outpatient consultations. A staff of more than 150 professionals will make it possible to launch the new single-speciality hospital.
The centre has a Nuclear Medicine and Metabolic Therapy Service, operating theatres, research laboratories and other non-care services, such as welcoming common spaces, spacious and light-filled to promote the well-being of patients and their families. In fact, there has been constant involvement of patients and their families in the design and construction of the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center since the beginning of the project.
Its own specialisation and care model in childhood cancer
The SJD Pediatric Cancer Center represents a milestone in the differential treatment applied to developmental cancer with respect to cancer in adults. Its implementation provides for the consolidation of the model of research, assistance and care in pediatric oncology developed by the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital for more than 15 years, the only one of its kind in Europe.
The Hospital's approach to padiatric oncology is based on the assumption that childhood cancer is associated with a child's development in their first years of life, while adult cancer is related to ageing. This means the biology of these diseases is totally different, and the medication used in adults is of little or no use to children.
As Andrés Morales, Director of Medical Care at the centre, explains, "the specialisation of our professionals in pediatric oncology at the centre allows treatment to be modulated according to a precise diagnosis, the patient's age and the tumour location, with the aim of minimising the impact of the treatment and its sequelae". We don't focus solely on eradicating the disease, but also on fostering the best results from the patient's health, with the best life quality possible, to give them the chance to fulfil their life goals."
In this sense, Jaume Mora, science director at the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center, also pointed out that "we can further specific research into developmental cancer with new, less aggressive treatments, train pediatric oncologists (a non-existent specialisation) and care for more children with this disease". We apply a translational research model that combines care and research so that patients can benefit from advanced treatments as soon as possible. Consequently, we succeed in having 80% cure rates, similar to those of other centres of excellence around the world, and we aspire to reach an even higher survival rate by 2030 in all types of childhood tumours that we treat."
Along with its medical specialisation and research, the new centre also represents a commitment to the specialisation of pediatric oncology nursing. "Pediatric oncology nursing practice evolved in parallel with the advancement of treatments and, today, the care offered by nursing is highly complex," explains Anna Negre, head of nursing at the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center. "In this way, this centre also means the culmination of a career in nursing specialisation. It is a journey that we have taken with the guidance of science, but also one oriented towards the development of the necessary skills to offer the best care and support to our patients and their families," she explains.
A single-speciality hospital open to the world with special impact in Latin America
SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital has long been a centre of reference for pediatric cancer care in Catalonia and Spain, but it has also opened up to the world. This positioning will be reinforced with the opening of the new centre as one of the most important single-speciality hospitals in Europe.
Guillermo Chantada, Director of the Outreach Programme of the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center, highlights that "the international collaboration of the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital in pediatric oncology has had a special focus and impact in Latin America, where inequity, between countries and within the countries themselves, continues to hamper their health systems' ability to treat childhood cancer". Our cooperation with Latin American health institutions and centres can range from training to the treating of patients, but we always maintain the objective of strengthening local capacities."
The collaboration of SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital with Latin America currently has two major active projects. Since 2019, the Hospital has been leading the CLOSER project (Childhood Leukemia: Overcoming distance between South America and European Regions), which is funded by the European Commission, and has the aim of raising the survival rate of leukemia patients in Latin America to reach those of Europe.
Likewise, in 2015, Sant Joan de Déu created the TELEO program (Tele-education in Pediatric Oncology). With the support of the Sanofi Espoir Foundation and the sponsorship of the Leo Messi Foundation, TELEO aims to promote continuing education in pediatric oncology in Latin America hospitals, and is currently undertaking the second course as a continuing education virtual platform.
The opening of the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona is a new impetus for the work and development of intercontinental collaboration projects. This year, it coincides with the Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), which takes place in Barcelona from 28 September to 1 October.
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