Posts Tagged ‘cancer research’

What the Inside of an Operating Room is Like During a Life-Saving Procedure

Operating RoomIt’s 7 a.m. and the surgical staff at Emory University Hospital is prepping a patient for a potentially life-saving procedure. As a surgical oncologist at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, I am leading one of the two groups of specialists working together to remove a type of stomach tumor known as a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). This is a rare tumor with approximately 10,000 new cases diagnosed in the Unites States every year. If left untouched, the tumor could enlarge or metastasize, requiring more radical treatment.

Stomach tumors are usually removed using one of two common techniques: endoscopy, in which doctors enter through the patient’s mouth using a flexible tube outfitted with a miniature camera and lasso-like device; or surgery, in which surgeons use minimally-invasive laparoscopic techniques to insert tiny surgical instruments through small incisions in the abdomen.

For this particular case, Dr. Field Willingham, Director of Endoscopy in the Emory Division of Digestive Diseases, and I are performing a groundbreaking hybrid procedure using both laparoscopy and endoscopy simultaneously, which allows us to reach tumors located in difficult areas of the stomach. In many cases, this procedure leads to the complete and safe removal of the tumor with fewer complications and/or long-term problems for the patient.

During the actual procedure, I begin by using laparoscopic tools to push the tumor from the outer side of the stomach so the more easily Dr. Willingham can grab the bulge from inside the stomach using an endoscopic cutting loop. I am able to push the tumor into the lumen of the stomach and Dr. Willingham successfully removes the tumor using a surgical snare technique. Next, Dr. Willingham pushes the area of the stomach where we removed the tumor from towards me. That allows me to hold the wall of the stomach and cut away any remaining tumor cells that may have been left behind.

By 10 a.m., the keyhole-sized incisions in the patient’s abdomen are being stitched closed. This particular operation is a complete success! We have safely removed the malignancy, leaving the patient’s lifestyle and ability to eat intact.

Emory was one of the first medical centers in the country to use this hybrid technique. We work closely with our colleagues in Gastroenterology to remove these complex tumors without requiring the patient to go through invasive surgery or complete organ removal.

While developing and performing innovative procedures like this is made easier by advanced technology and surgical techniques, a key to overall success is the multi-disciplinary team approach. While it helps that Dr. Willingham and I are friends outside of the operating room, it is very important as colleagues that we communicate and collaborate with one another, especially during complex cases such as this GIST surgery. Leaning on each other’s area of expertise, while sharing the same goal of doing what is best for our patient, leads to successful outcomes only achieved by working together.

See Dr. Maithel and Dr. Willingham performing this innovative procedure in the video below!

About Dr. Maithel

Shishir Maithel, MDShishir K. Maithel, MD, FACS, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, is a surgical oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Maithel specializes in treating gastrointestinal cancers, cancer of the liver, bile duct and pancreas, and retroperitoneal sarcoma. Dr. Maithel joined Emory in 2009 from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York where he completed his fellowship in both surgical oncology and hepatopancreatobiliary surgery. He completed his residency and internship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Maithel earned his Medical Degree at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, graduating Alpha Omega Alpha.

Bringing the Invisible Into Georgia Classrooms

Microscope view of cellsOn many university campuses there is a dark room that has no windows and the walls are painted black. People wearing white lab coats enter and rest their eyes on top of what I think to be one the most magnificent instruments in a science laboratory, the microscope. These microscopes, which are no bigger than a desk but can cost more than a house, rest gently on a cushion of air and serve the purpose of making the invisible world, visible.

I was hooked the first time I peered into one of these microscopes. All of a sudden this entirely new and previously invisible world moved into focus right in front of me. Tiny creatures that I had apparently been living with, were visible for the first time. I eventually turned my obsession with the microscopic world into a career. I am a scientist at a major medical school and my laboratory’s research is to study how cancer cells work, with the goal of creating new cancer treatments. My team and I have killed cancer cells with new medicines, burst them open, blasted them with radiation, and blocked them from spreading. We do this with the hope that our research will lead to new cancer treatments, make older treatments better, or help diagnose cancer.

Now I have been trying to bring this fascination for microscopes and cells into the classrooms of children around the state of Georgia with my program Students for Science. Through this program I have traveled to over 200 K-12 classrooms and seen over 2000 children in about 35 schools. I usually travel with three microscopes, computers, and cameras, and I bring with me other Winship Cancer Institute scientists, scientists in training from our graduate school, and Emory University undergraduates. Our goal is to inspire critical thinking in K-12 schools by providing them with hands-on, thought-provoking science activities that use the microscope. We have worked with the school students to see their own cheek cells, pond water, microorganisms in dirt, moss, bugs, and plants. I also show them real science movies taken on the microscopes at Emory to promote critical thinking and age-appropriate discussion about science and cancer.

I think that all of us participating in the program believe in its potential long-term benefit of growing the next generation of Georgia scientists. One of our major goals is to have the school students see real scientists to make the possibility of becoming a scientist more tangible. In addition, for me personally it is the excitement and thrill that the children show the first time they peer down the microscope and observe cells zipping across the microscope slide. Some children show fascination, others bewilderment, and some just scream out loud. These reactions are priceless and motivate me to continue to grow the program, see more classrooms, and help educate our youngest scientists.

About Dr. Marcus
Dr. Adam MarcusAdam Marcus received his PhD in cell biology from Penn State University in 2002 and went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer pharmacology at Emory University. Dr. Marcus is an Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and has developed his own laboratory which focuses on cell biology and pharmacology in lung and breast cancer. Dr. Marcus’ laboratory studies how cancer cells invade and metastasize using a combination of molecular and imaging-based approaches. For more information about Dr. Marcus and his outreach and research efforts, please use the related resources links below. You can also follow Dr. Marcus on Twitter at @NotMadScientist.

 

 

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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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Winship: Year in Review

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory UniversityAs we near the end of 2013, it’s common to reflect on events from the past year, both the challenging and the inspiring. For the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, it was an exciting year as strides were made in many areas, including enrolling over 800 patients in clinical trials, breaking ground on the Emory Proton Therapy Center, performing our 4,000th bone marrow and stem cell transplant and continuing to pioneer exciting research discoveries, such as the development of drug therapies aimed to cure brain cancer.

Winship opened its doors in 1937 and was the first center to provide advanced care for cancer patients in the Southeast. Today, as Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute – designated cancer center, Winship is among the nation’s leading institutions as it continues to pursue a future where cancer ceases to exist.

Through the generosity of donations of any size, as well as fundraising events like the Winship Win the Fight 5K, the physicians, staff and researchers at Winship are working harder than ever to achieve that goal for the residents of Georgia and beyond. The video below recaps some of the 2013 achievements as we prepare to welcome 2014 with eagerness and hopefulness!

Winship Cancer Institute Recognized for “Exceptional Contributions” to Advancing Research and Treatment of Multiple Myeloma

A team of researchers from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has been awarded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Accelerator Award. The award recognizes Sagar Lonial, MD, Jonathan Kaufman, MD, Ajay Nooka, MD, MPH, Lawrence Boise, PhD and Leon Bernal-Mizrachi, MD, for their “outstanding efforts and exceptional contributions to starting new clinical trials supported through the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) and rapidly enrolling patients in those trials.”

Emory researchers receive MMRF award

From left to right: Beverly Harrison, Vice President of Clinical Development at the MMRC, Dr. Leon Bernal-Mizrachi and Dr. Jonathan Kaufman of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and Walter M. Capone, Chief Operating Officer of the MMRF.

The MMRC is a non-profit organization that brings together 16 leading academic institutions with a focus on accelerating drug development in multiple myeloma. Out of the 16 institutions, Winship earned best overall performance for 2013. In addition to these honors, Lonial was recognized for his exceptional leadership of the MMRC Steering Committee, PRC and the MMRF CoMMpass℠ Study Steering Committee.

Running to Carry Forth a Father’s Passion to Make a Difference…

The Winship Win the Fight 5K brings together runners and supporters who participate for a wide variety of reasons. Some run to raise awareness for the importance of cancer funding and research, while others participate to honor the legacy of loved ones who are either currently in the fight against cancer, or those who have lost the battle.

Charles Stevens with daughters

Chandra Stephens-Albright & Charlita Stephens-Walker with their father, Charles.

For Chandra Stephens-Albright and Charlita Stephens-Walker, this weekend’s race is extremely important as the sisters prepare to run for a very special person, their father, Charles R. Stephens. “His name was Charles, his legacy is never giving up, and his leadership was, and remains, in raising funds to do good,” said Chandra about her father who passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer in February 2013.

Charles spent his professional career as a fundraising leader, serving in senior development positions at many educational institutions including his alma mater, Morehouse College. Other places of work included Dillard University, Clark College, Clark Atlanta University, Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He also served as the national campaign director for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

But Charles’s impact goes far beyond the institutions and organizations for which he served his professional time raising funds. Today, his legacy extends nationally to the individuals who shared his passion for fundraising. As the first African American Chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), a prestigious and international fundraising association, Charles dedicated his life to changing the fundraising industry from the inside out.

A passage from the AFP’s tribute to Charles following his passing captures it all: “Charles’s lifetime passion was to merge philanthropy and diversity (which he saw as nearly the same ideas) and introduce people of diverse backgrounds to the profession he calls ‘inclusive, noble, and worthwhile.’ His efforts changed the way the fundraising community looks at diversity, brought countless women and minorities into the profession and earned him the AFP Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service, an honor that has been granted to less than 20 people since it was instituted in 1982.”

The Chair’s Award was given to Charles during the AFP’s national conference in 2011, which was shortly after Charles had been diagnosed with cancer. Chandra and Charlita accompanied their father to the conference in Chicago, where they learned for the first time the full scope of Charles’s impact on the entire fundraising profession.

“He was a rock star, but to us he had never said so,” said Chandra, a 1985 Emory College alumna. She adds, “My sister and I did not really understand his national contribution until this cancer came along. It is this that establishes the groundwork for our Winship 5K team name – Charles’ Legacy Leaders.”

During his battle with cancer, Charles continued to live life fully by not only continuing to work at his passion, but by taking special vacations and spending quality time with his family, friends and peers.

“I can’t do justice to my father’s spirit with words,” Chandra said. “Not only did he undergo multiple rounds of chemo, but he did so while maintaining his positive spirit and his irrepressible sense of humor. We had two fantastic years to spend with him – years we didn’t think we’d have – in large part due to the fantastic care he got from the team at Winship.”

At the Winship 5K, there is no shortage of inspirational stories like Charles’s to be found. Incredible people like the Stephen sisters are joining in the fight against cancer to honor those who have gone before and made an impact on the world. If you would like to donate to the Winship 5K, contribute to the Charles Legacy Leaders team, or sign-up for the race yourself, please visit our Winship 5K website for more information.

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Brain Tumor Patient Embraces Life – One Step at a Time

Brain Tumor Patient Story

Dr. Costas Hadjipanayis and Jennifer Giliberto at the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation’s 2011 Race for Research.

In 2007, Jennifer Giliberto received the news that would change her and her young family’s life. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor — a grade II astrocytoma. Jennifer had a choice – let the brain tumor put her on the sidelines or continue to embrace life. She and her family chose the latter. Since her diagnosis, Jennifer has become a board member for the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation (SBTF) and currently serves as board Vice President. She also is a top fundraiser for their annual Race for Research which is slated for Saturday, September 21 at Atlantic Station.

Emory University Hospital Midtown’s chief of neurosurgery and Jennifer’s own surgeon, Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD, says that the SBTF often is a lifeline for patients and their families. Dr. Hadjipanayis also serves as president of the SBTF.

“The Race for Research brings together patients, their families and their friends to raise awareness and funds for brain tumor research,” says Hadjipanayis. “It’s not only a fun event, but it also helps fund grants for brain tumor research at leading medical research centers throughout the southeast like Emory.”

Learn more about Jennifer’s inspiring story by watching the CNN video below:

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Why I Run: To Raise Awareness & Funding For My Dad’s Cancer

Nething Family Melanoma Patient StoryWhen Sarah Nething learned that her father’s melanoma had come back, she knew it was time to take charge in the fight against cancer. “When cancer comes, you feel kind of helpless,” says Sarah. “Our family believes very strongly in the power of prayer, but you still feel like you want to do something.” And Sarah is doing something. As the oldest of ten children and a graduate student in South Carolina, Sarah has set up a team for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s Win the Fight 5K Run/Walk.

“I can’t take away my dad’s cancer; however, I can participate in something that raises research money to help the doctors try to figure out how to stop it,” says Sarah. So on October 5, Sarah and other members of the Nething family will run the 5K in their father’s honor. Their team – Race for Matt – is running to not only raise general awareness, but also funds for Winship’s Melanoma & Skin Cancer Fund. The Winship Melanoma & Skin Cancer Fund is one of 18 funds which Winship 5K participants can direct their donations to.

In preparing for the upcoming race, Sarah has yet to lose any motivation. “A friend of ours describes how our family feels perfectly when he says ‘Trust God completely, fight cancer aggressively.’ That’s exactly what we plan to do,” she concludes.

If you are interested in learning more about the Win the Fight 5K, want to run or simply help support other runners like the Nething family, visit the Winship 5K website for more information.

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Cancer Researchers, Patients Support Winship 5K Side-by-Side

Winship 5K on FacebookOne of the most inspiring parts of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s Win the Fight 5K race is seeing physicians and researchers run alongside their patients. In fact, many members of the Winship care team turn out on race day to support the cause, and many even host their own teams. Among these participants is Donald Harvey, PharmD, and director of Winship’s Phase I Clinical Trials Unit.

Dr. Harvey and other researchers in the Phase I unit work with volunteer participants to test the safety of new drugs and treatments and identify possible side effects. Winship’s Phase I Center is one of only two such units in Georgia and by far the largest and busiest, with 38 trials conducted in 2011 and research that has led to four drugs in the FDA approval pipeline. These drugs will hopefully go on to cure people of cancer or extend their lives for many years.

A New Interactive Tool to Answer Your Cancer Questions: Introducing the Whiteboard

Cancer Facts & FAQs whiteboardWe’re excited to introduce a new interactive initiative that was launched in partnership between Emory Healthcare and Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. This platform, called “Whiteboard,” opens up a new way for people to do their own kind of research about cancer. Readers can scroll through a variety of questions on different cancer topics, read and like these questions, or submit their own. Newly submitted questions will be reviewed by our Winship team, including our physicians, investigators, nurses and other support and care team members. Depending on the type of question, we are able to respond quickly (within a business day or two). More complex or specific questions may require further research and collaboration on our part and therefore may take us longer to answer.

The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, meaning that Winship meets the highest standards of cancer research. Members of the Winship team are constantly working to find new cancer treatments as well as to discover ways to prevent cancer and detect it early. By creating the Whiteboard, our online community has a way to conduct its own cancer research and get trustworthy answers directly from Winship’s experts.

Getting cancer questions answered via the Winship Whiteboard is easy. Simply go to the Whiteboard, click on the notepad on the top right, ask your question, and click submit; the team at Winship will get back to you with an answer. Questions can be submitted related to any cancer topic or type, ranging from general prevention tips and survivorship resources, to questions related to specific types of cancer, such as prostate cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer.

We’ve received some fantastic cancer questions on the Whiteboard so far. Kevin, for example, asked, “My PSA was elevated at my check-up. Do I have prostate cancer?” Justin asked, “What can former smokers do to possibly offset the damage of past smoking and reduce cancer risk?” While Travis asked, “Are there any foods I can eat to help prevent cancer?” All of these cancer questions have been answered by the doctors and researchers from the Winship Cancer Institute on our Whiteboard. Whether you have just one cancer question, or many, you can submit them all on the Whiteboard and get answers from the cancer experts at Winship. Even if you don’t have a question, please take the time to browse and like your favorites!

We welcome your feedback on our new cancer FAQ site in the comments below.

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