Apr 12, 2021 2:00 PM

Read Time: 2 minutes

Author: Ashlee Harrison and Garrett Harding

Photo of St. Peter's Health sign outside building

New partnership brings world-class cancer care, top specialists and innovative treatments to Helena

 Today St. Peter's Health announced the decision to affiliate with Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U) and bring a higher level of cancer care to the Helena community. The affiliation with HCI enables patients undergoing cancer and hematology care at St. Peter's Health in Helena, Montana to access a broader variety of treatment options along with top cancer experts at HCI, including those who specialize in rare and complex cancers. Building on the strength of St. Peter’s existing affiliation with University of Utah Health, the oncology affiliation will also expedite care for St. Peter's Health patients requiring sophisticated procedures at HCI and ensure seamless coordination of their ongoing care when they return to the Helena area.

HCI is the only National Cancer Institute Designated (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. It is ranked among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report and receives patient satisfaction ratings in the top 1% nationwide.


Photo of St. Peter's Health building
St. Peter's Health

"We share a vision with Huntsman Cancer Institute to strengthen and expand the availability of cancer care in our local community, so patients can receive more advanced treatments locally and have fewer expenses or delays because of the need to travel to a major city,” said St. Peter's Health CEO Wade Johnson. "This is an incredible opportunity to leverage technology and our existing affiliation with University of Utah Health to connect people here with some of the nation’s top oncology and hematology specialists. The expertise and support that a renowned cancer program like HCI can provide a small community like Helena is a significant advancement in our ability to provide gold standard oncology care."

The main HCI campus is in Salt Lake City, and with the addition of St. Peter’s Health, HCI now has six affiliate cancer centers across the Mountain West region. All affiliates are independent, not-for-profit health systems.

"We are honored to work with St. Peter's Health in service of cancer patients in Montana," said Don Milligan, MBA, executive director of the HCI Hospital. "Our organizations share a commitment to enhance the standard of care for patients and their families. We look forward to working with the teams at St. Peter's Health to bring world-class cancer expertise, along with their unique insights and experience, to further improve the standard of cancer care in Montana."

Inpatient Senior Nursing Director Kari Koehler, MSN, RN started the St. Peter's Health Breast Cancer Nurse Navigation Program in 2009. She has since overseen the Cancer Treatment Center and sees tremendous benefit in the affiliation. “Our nurses, physicians and clinical staff will have direct access to education and training opportunities provided by HCI, and they can present patient care plans in expert forums for evaluation and recommendation on best treatment options. St. Peter’s physicians will still have the autonomy to make referrals to other hospitals or health systems if they deem that most appropriate, but having this built-in partnership always available will really enhance their ability to provide top-notch cancer care.”

According to Johnson, affiliating with other health systems to expand the care that’s available in Helena is a strategic move to maintain independence and local decision-making and better meet the needs of the community. “Small, rural health systems like St. Peter’s face numerous challenges in today’s health care

environment and simply don’t have the resources or patient volumes to offer as many specialty and sub- specialty services locally as might be desired. Partnering with reputable, like-minded health systems around specific specialties brings a higher level of care to our community without the need to become part of a larger health system.”



About St. Peter’s Health

St. Peter’s Health is a system of health care services including a 99-bed acute care hospital, physician clinics, cancer treatment center, 24-bed behavioral health unit, urgent care clinics, home health and hospice care, dialysis center and ambulance services. St. Peter’s Health serves the Helena region and southwest Montana counties of Lewis and Clark, Broadwater, Jefferson, Meagher and Powell, with a combined population of approximately 97,000 residents. The mission of St. Peter’s Health is to partner with patients and the community to provide exceptional and compassionate health care. For more information, visit sphealth.org

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Relations – Huntsman Cancer Institute
Email Us
801 581-3194

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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

Cancer touches all of us.

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