A MaineHealth cancer network that connects patients with health care services – including clinical trials in Boston – received a $10 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation on Thursday.

The five-year grant will help accelerate services provided by the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network, which was launched in 2015. MaineHealth is the parent company of Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Dr. Scot Remick, chief of oncology for Maine Medical Center and MaineHealth, said the $2 million per year more than doubles the budget for the network, from $1.7 million per year to $3.7 million.

Remick said a partnership with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston will be expanded, and it gives patients in Maine access to potentially life-saving clinical trials. Remick said the Cancer Care Network will also grow the number of clinical trials in Maine. Dana-Farber conducts hundreds of clinical trials for cancer, including trials involving prostate, kidney, breast, sickle cell disease, brain cancer, leukemia and many others.

While access to research clinical trials is important, Remick said the network’s goal is to find cancer treatment as close to where the patient lives as possible.

“It’s such an enormous relief for the patient if this can be done,” Remick said. “The first question patients ask is, ‘Is it curable’? And the second question is, ‘Can I be treated close to home?’ ”

Remick said 9,000 Mainers are diagnosed with cancer each year, and Maine has high rates of the disease because of its aging population. Maine has the highest median age of any state in the nation.

“We have a significant cancer burden in our state,” he said.

The network will also increase the number of patient advocates and coordinators who help patients navigate the complex health-care system.

Lorie Albert, 54, of Sanford, was diagnosed with lung cancer last year. She said doctors caught her cancer in the early stages, and having a patient advocate from the network steer her to the right treatment was key. Albert said being able to go to MaineMed made the difficult experience easier to handle.

“It took a lot of stress right out of it. I didn’t have to worry about family members taking me places or who was going to take care of the house,” she said.

Albert said the patient advocate with the network helped her move up her surgery by a few weeks, because it was her preference to get the procedure done as soon as possible.

The Alfond Foundation in 2007 also helped establish MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, which consolidated cancer care programs in central Maine into a 59,000-square-foot facility, according to the foundation’s website. Harold Alfond, 93, the founder of the Dexter Shoe Company and a philanthropist, died in 2007 of prostate cancer.

Greg Powell, chairman of the Alfond Foundation, said in a news conference at the Maine Medical office complex in Scarborough that Alfond decided to devote philanthropic resources to cancer care after living with cancer for many years. Powell said Alfond appreciated all the effort it took for good medical care.

“He called it teamwork. Today we’re calling it a network,” Powell said. “It’s our mission to help the entire state.”

Remick said coordinating care for a patient is a complex task, but worth doing because it improves the experience for the patient and outcomes are better.

The MaineHealth Cancer Network includes Maine Med, Cancer Care Center of York County, MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, LincolnHealth in Damariscotta, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick and Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H.

Joe Lawlor can be reached at 791-6376 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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