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Cancer treatment becomes money maker here

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published September 25. 2013 4:00AM

Does Millstone Power Station cause cancer? The NRC wants to know.

That was a headline last year on a story about how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was ordering up a $2 million study to look at cancer rates around six nuclear power plant sites around the county, including Millstone in Waterford and the now-decommissioned plant in Haddam Neck.

This week, the National Academy of Sciences announced it has started the initial planning for the NRC study on cancer risks, which is expected to continue into next year.

The timing was interesting, since last week brought the groundbreaking for the new $34.5 million Lawrence + Memorial Cancer Center in Waterford, developed in partnership with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Boston.

Also last week, Hartford Health Care, the network that includes The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, announced it has joined a new partnership with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York, another giant in cancer care.

Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven has also been advertising in the region lately.

The race is on for our cancer patients.

L+M officials have noted, in developing their new cancer center, that Connecticut has one of the highest cancer rates in the county, and that eastern Connecticut has one of the highest rates in the state.

L+M also announced at its groundbreaking last week that Dominion Foundation, the charitable arm of the company that owns Millstone Power Station, had just committed $50,000 to their new cancer center.

Of course, if the NRC finds that Millstone is contributing to the higher cancer rates around here, Dominion ought to contribute more than $50,000 to a key cancer treatment center.

If I were running Dominion, I would have preferred L+M keep my company's name and generosity out of a ceremony dedicating a new cancer treatment center.

The region's two hospitals are wise to focus on cancer treatment, which is considered a growing profit center for the medical field.

Two recent stories by Time and Crain's New York Business focused on Sloan-Kettering's successful business model in treating cancer patients.

Crain's called Sloan-Kettering a "cancer treatment juggernaut" with total operating revenue in 2010 of $2.2 billion.

Time noted in its story earlier this year on Sloan-Kettering that nondoctor administrators are profiting, too. Six Sloan-Kettering administrators made salaries of more than $1 million in 2010.

Two Sloan-Kettering fundraisers made $1.4 million and $844,000, Time said, many multiples more than fundraisers for established institutions like Harvard and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In New London, the top four administrators at L+M Hospital made close to $2 million combined in 2009.

Cancer treatment is a new profit center, certainly in places where rates are especially high.

Local hospitals here seem to be on their game in identifying the trend.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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