Awareness

Celebrating Volunteers at Winship

Winship Volunteers

This is National Volunteer Week (April 6 – 12), a great opportunity to thank the many people who volunteer their services here at Winship in order to make life better for cancer patients and their families.

On any given day, there may be 20 or more trained Winship volunteers helping patients and staff in the clinics, waiting rooms, treatment areas and Patient and Family Resource Center.  You can spot them escorting people around the building, offering snacks or companionship to patients in treatment, playing the piano in the lobby or a cello in the hallway.  They also perform many tasks behind the scenes, such as doing clerical work, keeping the resource center stocked, and providing encouragement and support through the Peer Partners program.

These Winship ambassadors can make a world of difference in a cancer patient’s day.  Our goal is to give patients the very best care possible, and volunteers help us do that.  Winship’s volunteer program was birthed a little over ten years ago when this building first opened.  It started with twelve volunteers; today, there are 150 dedicated people who work on-site.  And those original twelve are still here and serve as the Volunteer Board, which directs volunteer activities and resources.   Today’s volunteer staff includes former patients, patient family members, students and many others who want to give back.

DaVida Lee-Williams manages Guest & Volunteer Services on a day-to-day basis, as well for special events like the Winship Win the Fight 5K and the Celebration of Living.  She rallied over 280 for the 2013 Winship 5K and they made a real difference in how people experienced the race.  The fact is, we couldn’t do these activities without the devoted and enthusiastic work of volunteers. Lee-Williams says volunteers also gain from the experience.

“Volunteering is an opportunity to interact, create a sense of family with Winship patients and staff, and gain an understanding that people with cancer are more than just their disease,” Lee-Williams points out.

Volunteer services continue to grow.  Last fall, a new Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Buddy Program was launched in order to help bone marrow transplant patients get through the preparatory tests and paperwork that have to be done in the two or three days prior to hospital check-in.

During this National Volunteer Week, I want to say thank you to the many individuals who give of their time, their talents and their hearts to Winship.  Volunteers are making a difference here and we’re grateful!

About Dr. Curran:
Walter J. Curran Jr., MDWalter J. Curran, Jr., MD, was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

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5 Actions to Consider When Diagnosed with Cancer

5 Things to ConsiderA common symptom of a new cancer diagnosis is pure and utter bewilderment. The American healthcare system can be a confusing maze involving dozens of options and decisions. Helping someone understand what comes next is an important part of my job as an oncologist and is necessary to assure a patient’s overall wellbeing.

Here are five actions to consider taking after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

  1. Get a second opinion. Before starting any cancer treatment, get at least one additional physician or team of physicians to review your case and give an opinion on both the diagnosis and possible treatment options. In fact, you may be required to get a second opinion by your insurance company. Don’t worry about offending your doctor. Getting a second opinion is a very common practice.
  2. Look for a clinical trial. Tens of thousands of people benefit each year from volunteering to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can provide you with access to treatments not otherwise available, including new drugs and therapies for many types of cancer. Winship Cancer Institute is proud to offer patients access to hundreds of cancer clinical trials.

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

Colon Cancer AwarenessMarch is colorectal cancer awareness month. For those who aren’t familiar with this cancer type, it encompasses cancers that begin in either the colon or the rectum.

The National Cancer Institute identifies colorectal cancer as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. The majority of these deaths are preventable with screening and early detection, and according to the American Cancer Society, the number of colorectal cancer cases has gone down due mainly to the increase in early detection of the disease through screening.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Although colorectal cancer can affect anyone, there are certain people at higher risk of developing this disease. Colorectal cancer has a higher incidence in men as compared to women and in African Americans as compared to Caucasians. The incidence of colorectal cancer increases with age with 90 percent of new cases occurring in patients who are 50 years or older. There is a familial predisposition to development of colorectal cancer. About 20 percent of patients with colorectal cancer have a close relative with the same disease.

Colorectal Cancer Prognosis

The main thing determining the long-term outcome for patients with colorectal cancer is the stage of the disease at diagnosis. The stage is determined by the extent of spread of the tumor. Patients with early stage cancer (disease localized to the colon) have an excellent outcome with a high likelihood of long-term survival. On the other hand, patients diagnosed with advanced stage disease (disease involving other organs) have a lower chance of long-term survival. This is the reason why early diagnosis through screening is essential for improving the outcome of this disease.

Colorectal Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

Candidates for screening include people over the age of 50, people with a family history of colon cancer, and people with predisposing medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. Several methods have been used for screening for colorectal cancer. These include testing the stool for blood, direct visualization of the colon using a scope (colonoscopy) or specialized scans (virtual colonoscopy).

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

The most promising research into treating colorectal cancers is being done in the areas of personalized medicine and targeted therapies. In personalized medicine, researchers are trying to identify unique characteristics of tumors that make them vulnerable or resistant to known drugs. This approach would allow for therapy that is tailored for a specific patient based on the unique characteristics of the cancer in that individual. In targeted therapies, investigators are trying to find new drugs that are more selectively targeted to the cancer cells. This approach allows for more effective therapies with fewer side effects.

Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistAbout Dr. El-Rayes

Dr. Bassel El-Rayes joined Emory University in September 2009 as the director of the GI Oncology program. He is currently the Associate Cancer Center Director for Clinical Research at Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. El-Rayes completed his medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He subsequently joined the internal medicine residency and then the hematology oncology fellowship at Wayne State University. He joined faculty as an Assistant Professor in the area of GI oncology. During this time, he was involved in translational research focused on GI cancer with special focus on pancreatic and colorectal cancer. In the clinical research, Dr. El-Rayes is focused on drug development and multidisciplinary therapy treatments in patients with early stage or advanced GI cancer

Tackling Cancer on World Cancer Day*

World Cancer DayWe experience the burden of cancer here in Georgia and throughout the U.S., but cancer is not just an American problem. It is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths (about 13% of all deaths) in 2008 and that number is projected to rise to 13.1 million deaths in 2030.

Every day, my Winship colleagues and I seek to identify better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure cancer. Fortunately, we do not work in isolation. Our efforts are part of a global collaborative of cancer researchers and doctors, and one of the most rewarding aspects of this work is joining forces with scientists from all over the world who are committed to a shared goal of ending cancer.

Imagine a global community of scientists in continual conversation about the most up-to-date mindset for treating cancer. We are a vital part of that conversation.

I made two international trips late last year which captured the spirit of collaboration in cancer research. One trip was to Australia, stopping first at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney, and then on to Brisbane, where a unique partnership called the Queensland Emory Development Alliance (QED) is bringing together outstanding researchers from Emory, The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), to collaborate on new research projects primarily in the realm of cancer and infectious disease.

Several Winship faculty including William Dynan and Dennis Liotta are currently collaborating on cancer research projects with new colleagues at UQ and QIMR. My visit to Brisbane has resulted in early work towards furthering these and other collaborations. The World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney highlighted a number of important findings in our struggle against the leading cancer killer resulting from work conducted among my colleagues in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

In December, I flew to Chengdu, China, as a guest of the Chinese Society of Radiation Oncology (CSTRO) to deliver the keynote address at the annual CSTRO Symposium. As evidenced in this conference and in my subsequent visits to large cancer centers in Bejing and Jinan, there have been remarkable advances in cancer research and cancer care in China. There is also a tremendous level of collaboration between investigators at major Chinese universities and faculty at Winship and other major American cancer centers. Currently my colleagues and I are working each week on a clinical trial underway at eight Chinese cancer centers, comparing stereotactic radiation to surgery for patients with early stage lung cancer. I had a chance to meet with all of my colleagues conducting this research in China during my visit there and to celebrate this progress!

I’m extremely proud of the work performed here at Winship that contributes to advancing cancer research throughout the world. International conferences, as well as the many times we host scientists from other countries here on the Emory campus, enable us to share information and resources and benchmark our own contributions. But it’s when I return to Winship and see patients who are benefiting from discoveries made by my colleagues here and elsewhere, the value of collaboration truly hits home.

Seeing even one patient improve from the advances we make in cancer research and treatment is a reward worth sharing with the world.

*February 4th is World Cancer Day, when international health organizations support the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in promoting ways to ease the global burden of cancer. This year’s theme, “Debunk the myths,” focuses on improving general knowledge about cancer in order to reduce stigma and dispel misconceptions about the disease. More information: http://www.worldcancerday.org

Author: Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director, Winship Cancer Institute

About Dr. Walter Curran
Walter J. Curran Jr., MDWalter J. Curran, M.D. was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

6 Ways to Reduce your Risk of Cancer in the New Year

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

It’s that time of year when we resolve to start fresh and break old habits, but did you know that some of the most common New Year’s resolutions could also help reduce your risk of cancer? Nearly 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and many cases could be prevented by taking steps to decrease risk.

Here are six ways to cut your chances of developing cancer:

  1. Stop smoking or never start: cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and many other cancers. Doctors recommend you stay away from all tobacco products and byproducts, including second hand smoke. Winship Cancer Institute is offering a step-by-step program developed by the American Lung Association to help you quit. To register, click here.
  2. Watch what you eat and drink: obesity is increasingly proven to be a major risk factor for certain cancers. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit red and processed meat consumption. Cut down on alcohol consumption; experts recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  3. Get physical: an active lifestyle is critical for your overall health and well-being, but studies show regular exercise can reduce the risk of a variety of cancers.
  4. Practice sun safety: protect yourself from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation by wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Tanning beds and sunlamps are also associated with increased risk of skin cancer, so stay away.
  5. Get screened: early detection of certain cancers can make a difference in treatment and recovery. Women at average risk for breast cancer should have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year starting at age 40. Cervical cancer screening is now recommended every five years for women at average risk between the ages of 30 and 65. Men and women 50 and older should begin screening for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy or other early detection method approved by a physician.
  6. Know your family history: some cancers run in families, but before you ask for genetic testing, it’s important to know that most cancers are not linked to genes inherited from our parents. Your doctor can help you determine the right course of action.

When it comes to your health, being proactive about reducing cancer risk will help you not just in the New Year but for the rest of your life. What are some ways that you’ve resolved to get healthy this year?

By Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director, Winship Cancer Institute

About Dr. Walter Curran
Walter J. Curran, Jr. was appointed Executive Director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in September 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chair of Radiation Oncology and Chief Medical Officer of the Winship Cancer Institute.

Dr. Curran, who is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, has been a principal investigator on several National Cancer Institute (NCI) grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Ga CORE). Dr. Curran is the only individual currently serving as director of an NCI-designated cancer center and as group chairman of an NCI-supported cancer cooperative group, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. In 2006, he was named the leading radiation oncologist/cancer researcher in a peer survey by the journal Medical Imaging. Under Dr. Curran’s leadership Emory’s Radiation Oncology Department has been recently selected as a “Top Five Radiation Therapy Centers to Watch in 2009” by Imaging Technology News. Dr. Curran ranked among the top 10 principal investigators in terms of overall NCI funding in 2010 and among the top 20 principal investigators in overall NIH funding in 2010.

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Cancer Risk Dramatically Reduced Since Landmark Smoking Report Issued 50 years Ago

Dr. Fadlo KhuriFifty years ago this month, Dr. Luther Terry, Surgeon General of the United States, issued the landmark 1964 Surgeon General’s Report providing the first definitive proof that cigarette smoking causes both lung and laryngeal cancer. This announcement came after a committee of experts had worked for 18 months, reviewing more than 7,000 published papers and engaging 150 consultants.

The importance of this report and its findings cannot be overstated. Fifty years ago, we did not know that smoking definitely causes lung cancer and other diseases, only that smoking was associated with a higher risk of these diseases. Recognizing that the impact of tobacco on our national and, indeed, the world’s health was the major public health issue of the day, Dr. Terry assembled an unimpeachable panel of distinguished physicians and scientists. He chose individuals for the panel who were not only among the giants of medicine and science, but were also objective and could ensure the integrity of the report.

The report was based on what ranked as the largest and most careful review of the medical literature yet undertaken. Most importantly, the report was clear, evidence based and unequivocal. It showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that smoking caused both lung cancer and larynx cancer. The report concluded that cigarette smoking is 1) a cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men; 2) a probable cause of lung cancer in women; and 3) the most important cause of chronic bronchitis.

The impact of the report on public perception was astonishing. In 1958, only 44% of Americans believed that smoking seriously impacted health, according to a Gallup Poll. Ten years later, and four years after the report’s release, that number had climbed to 78%. The report also galvanized the anti-tobacco movement. Its findings have lent enormous credence to smoking cessation efforts over the last 50 years. In 1964, 52% of adult men and 35% of adult women smoked cigarettes. This had fallen to 21.6% of adult men and 16.5% of adult women by 2011.

Today, we are certain that tobacco causes some of the most widespread and devastating diseases in the world, including cancers of the lung, larynx (voice box), esophagus, mouth, throat and bladder, which together account for about 30% of the world’s cancer-related deaths. Tobacco is also a major cause of heart disease, emphysema and other diseases of the lungs and heart.

There have been several subsequent reports issued by the Surgeons General, the latest an eye-opening look at smoking behavior among the younger generation. This, like all prior reports, builds on that first landmark report from a great physician leader and his matchless panel of experts. The impact of their efforts on smoking in the US and the world is unquestionable. The debt that the world owes these 12 brave scientists has never been greater.

Author: Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director, Winship Cancer Institute

Want to learn more about the impact of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking? View this video as Dr. Khuri further discusses the effect the report has had on the medical community.

About Dr. Fadlo Khuri
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Professor and Chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

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Johns Creek Community Encouraged to Get Colonoscopy Screenings

Colorectal Cancer AwarenessAccording to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is also the third most common cancer diagnosed at Emory Johns Creek Hospital, and the number of cases diagnosed at Emory Johns Creek has increased each year since 2007.

It is well known that the earlier we can make a cancer diagnosis, the better the chance for successful treatment. The Cancer Committee at Emory Johns Creek reviewed data on colon cancers diagnosed at the hospital and found that more than 50% of its cases were diagnosed at a later stage. In fact, about 52% were detected at stage III or IV. According to the National Cancer Database (NCDB), the national average is about 39%.

The reason early diagnosis makes a difference: When diagnosed at stage I or II, the cancer is usually still confined to the colon and has not yet spread into lymph nodes or other organs. In these early stages, surgery to remove the tumor is frequently the only treatment required. Additionally, the outlook for long term survival is greater at these stages.

When colon cancers are detected at later stages, surgery often has to be combined with other therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation. At Emory Johns Creek, about 45% of patients can be treated with surgery alone, compared to 58% nationally. For the Johns Creek community, this highlights the importance of getting colonoscopy screenings ensure that any diagnosis is made at the earliest possible stage.

Individuals should speak to their physicians about when it is appropriate to begin screenings, but the American Cancer Society recommends both men and women should begin screenings at age 50. However, individuals who have had polyps, a family history of colorectal cancer or have suffered from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, may need to begin screenings earlier.

Make a New Year’s resolution to fight colorectal cancer:

  • If you are 50 years or older, call your physician to help you get scheduled for a screening
  • If you have friends and family 50 years or older, or may be at higher risk, urge them to schedule a screening

Charitable Dollars are at Work Each and Every Day at Winship

Giving to WinshipPrivate philanthropy drives discovery at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Thanks in large part to the generosity of donors, we offer patients in Georgia and beyond with advanced cancer care and treatments. As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Georgia, our patients have access to the latest in cancer care and clinical trials. In fact, last year alone we saw 12,500 new patients and enrolled 800 people in clinical studies.

Support from donors enables Winship physicians and researchers to remain on the frontline of cancer research and treatment. We have seen unprecedented progress in all areas of our operation, and such development means we need the support of our donors now more than ever before. Charitable dollars are at work each and every day at Winship. For example:

  • Nabil Saba, MD, FACP, leads a grant-supported team seeking to identify genetic mutations linked to head and neck cancer caused by HPV infection.
  • Renee Read, MD, received a grant to study the role of a particular gene in brain tumor invasion and proliferation.
  • Carla Berg, PhD, is working with cancer survivors to implement healthy lifestyle interventions, focusing on smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and mood regulation.

As the competition for government grants continues to increase and funding continues to decrease, ongoing philanthropic support for translational research, which results in further funding is crucial. Gifts of any size enable us to pursue our ambitious goals and aid significantly in the fight against cancer. The generosity of our supporters and friends has allowed us to grow into what we are today, and, with your support, our progress will continue as we hold steadfast to our mission of eliminating cancer altogether.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

 

Yours,

Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute

 

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Lung Cancer: Not Just a Disease of Smokers

Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for most patients who develop lung cancer; however, some patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked a cigarette. Physicians today are seeing more non-smokers and light smokers with lung cancer. Why do these people get lung cancer?

We now understand that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, in fact, even passive exposure to tobacco smoke increases your risk for developing lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 lung cancer related deaths a year in the United States, and there’s a 20 to 30% increased risk of developing lung cancer for nonsmokers living with a smoker. This is why so many cities have passed laws to limit smoking in restaurants, bars and clubs. Many workplaces are also becoming tobacco-free to protect the health of their employees.

Other environmental exposures besides tobacco smoke have been associated with lung cancer including chemicals used in some workplaces, such as asbestos, tar and soot and heavy metals like chromium, nickel and arsenic. There has also been an association with radon gas and lung cancer, especially in people exposed to high levels of radon, such as uranium miners. People who have been exposed to large doses of radiation, like atomic bomb survivors in Japan, also have a higher risk of lung cancer. It is still unclear how much of a factor air pollution plays in developing lung cancer.

Family history can also impact chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer. There is almost a two fold increased risk of lung cancer in a person with a family history and this risk is even higher if more than two relatives in a family have lung cancer. We still have not identified a particular gene that is passed on in these families that makes them more prone to lung cancer; however, at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, genetic testing is now given to every patient diagnosed with lung cancer to identify specific mutations in tumor tissue that may inform treatment decisions.

Research has identified genetic mutations in lung cancers from people who have never smoked or are/were light smokers. These mutations are not inherited, rather they originate in the lung tissue and create lung cancer. Interestingly enough, mutations in the epidermal growth factor (EGFR) and ALK genes have been found more frequently in lung cancer patients who never smoked. These patients can be treated with drugs that target these specific mutations.

Researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute are also involved in more extensive genetic testing of tumors to find other mutations that could explain why non-smokers develop lung cancer. Understanding more about these genetic changes and other factors will help us be able to treat all lung cancer, particularly those in non-smokers, with better, more personalized treatments.

About Dr. Pillai:

Dr. Rathi PillaiRathi Pillai, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology. She joined the faculty after graduating from Emory University’s Hematology/Oncology fellowship program in 2013, where she served as chief fellow from 2012-2013. Dr. Pillai earned her medical degree from the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School and completed her residency in internal medicine at Emory University. She is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and the American College of Physicians. Dr. Pillai’s research interests are in novel therapies in lung cancer, including PD-1 targeted agents, and phase I drug development.

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Awareness of Symptoms Can Help Detect Ovarian Cancer Earlier

Ovarian Cancer Awareness MonthOvarian cancer used to be called the “silent killer” because it was thought the symptoms of this gynecological cancer often appeared too late to begin effective treatment. However, we now know certain symptoms do occur early enough to help catch the disease when it’s easier to treat.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (below the stomach and above the hips)
  • Trouble eating
  • Getting full quickly
  • Urinary urgency
  • Urinary frequency

While ovarian cancer may not be silent, it may be more appropriate to call it devious since these same symptoms often are caused by more common, and less lethal, conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

In reality, ovarian cancer is rare, accounting for about 3% of all cancers in women. Statistics published by the American Cancer Society estimate a women’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 72, and her lifetime chance of dying from it is 1 in 100. In comparison, a women’s lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is about 1 in 16 and 1 in 20 for colorectal cancer.

However, ovarian cancer is still the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in U.S. women. Women experiencing these symptoms should see their gynecologist, especially if:

  • symptoms occur almost daily last for more than a few weeks and;
  • feel different from “normal”—in other words, the symptoms are more frequent or severe than usual.

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Back pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal swelling along with weight loss

No one is truly sure what causes ovarian cancer; however, genetics and ovulation appear the biggest factors.

Ovarian cancer risk factors include:

  • Age— Risk increases as women age, particularly after menopause, until about the age of 75. Ovarian cancer in women under 40 is rare.
  • Reproductive history—Women who have never been pregnant, have suffered multiple miscarriages or have undergone multiple abortions appear to be at higher risk
  • Family and personal history of cancer— The risk of developing the disease can be as much as 50% higher in women whose mothers or sisters have had ovarian cancer. Risk also increases in women who have been treated for breast, uterine or colorectal cancer. In fact, women in this risk group may want to consider BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing. Mutations in these genes can indicate a higher risk.
  • Fertility treatments— Women who have taken fertility drugs to induce ovulation, such as clomiphene, tend to be at higher risk.
  • Lifestyle—Obesity and high-fat diets have been shown to increase risk.

On the other hand, risk seems to decrease for women who have:

  • Taken birth control pills
  • Given birth to one or more children, with each full-term pregnancy dropping the risk by about 10%
  • Breast fed
  • Undergone tubal ligation or a hysterectomy

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