St. David's HealthCare is partnering with Nashville-based Sarah Cannon Cancer Center to launch new oncology and blood and marrow transplant care in South Austin.

The sixth floor of St. David's South Austin Medical Center now includes a general oncology unit, a surgical oncology unit and The Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center to treat patients with blood cancers. Since January, the center has completed 12 transplants, which is already double the estimated seven transplants the center expected to complete in 2014.

"We knew that there was an unmet need here," said Dr. Fred LeMaistre, vice president and physician in chief of hematology at Sarah Cannon. "What I didn't anticipate was the number of patients being referred into the program just within the first six months. It's more than double of what we anticipated what the need would be."

LeMaistre said the partnership with St. David's is a "natural fit" and the South Austin location was chosen because its proximity to Texas Oncology and because it is the closest facility to the Texas Transplant Institute in San Antonio.

Plans to dedicate the sixth floor of the South Austin hospital to oncology and a bone marrow transplant program have been in mind since St. David's underwent a $72 million expansion four years ago. Construction on three additional floors at the South Austin Medical Center was completed two years ago.

LeMaistre said generally, patients did not need to leave Austin to receive cancer treatment except for those patients who needed to have a blood or marrow transplant. Therefore it seemed time for Austin to have its own facility, he said. Todd Steward, Chief Executive Officer, St. David's South Austin Medical Center, said physicians collaborated on assessing the needs of the community in Austin and a bone marrow transplant program was a needed service.

In June, St. David's will move into a larger space for its outpatient clinic that treats patients with blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma, or patients who will soon receive a blood marrow transplant. Treatment at the clinic includes chemotherapy and blood infusions. The new clinic will be 800 square feet larger than it is currently.

"[Austin] is an incredibly rich environment in terms of facilities and physicians that are here—there is extraordinary expertise," LeMaistre said. "While the blood and marrow transplant program may be the first tangible of our investment in cancer here, it's just a start People in Austin will have access to comprehensive cancer services. It's really an exciting time for us."