The purpose of the community outreach program I oversee at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is to bring our clinical and population-based research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states in order to benefit patients in those areas. By partnering with community oncologists, we can offer our expertise and best practices to help them successfully treat patients with types of cancer that are less common or more difficult to treat.
A great example of this is a program we’ve developed to treat patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), an uncommon but highly aggressive disease. We actually call it the heart attack of leukemias because a third of the patients do not survive the first month of treatment. We have chemotherapeutic drugs that are very effective in treating APL, but because it is a rare condition, physicians who treat it in the community may not be familiar with the potential complications that patients may develop during treatment.
Yet it is a highly curable disease, and at Winship we have come up with a simple approach that is keeping these patients alive during the first, most crucial month. This method decreases mortality from an estimated 30 percent to less than five percent.
We started by taking a very complicated treatment algorithm and simplifying it to a page and a half, and then used that to develop a three-step process to help community oncologists treat patients quickly and effectively. As soon as we get a call from a community physician, we send the simplified algorithm via smart phone. Then we talk to the physician on the phone and figure out what the patient is going through. Lastly, we give them a treatment plan to get them through the first month and follow up with emails, phone calls or text messages.
We’re grateful that community doctors are receptive to the guidance offered by Winship. By taking swift action, they are giving their APL patients the best chance of survival. It’s extremely gratifying to see people in outlying parts of Georgia and South Carolina receive this treatment protocol and survive this disease.
Watch Dr. Jillella explain the way Winship is helping save patients’ lives following diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia in the video below:
About Dr. Jillella
Anand Jillella, MD, is a national leader in bone marrow transplantation and has led the development of a strategy to decrease induction mortality for acute promyelocytic leukemia. He leads the efforts of the Winship Cancer Network and is expanding Winship’s role in bringing clinical and population-based cancer research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states.