Posts Tagged ‘winship cancer institute’

Life After Breast Cancer

supportive-friendsBreast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women according to the American Cancer Society. This year alone, more than 234,000 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Most women with breast cancer do quite well and have long lives after completing treatment. One of the hardest things for survivors is living with the worry that the cancer may come back. We recommend scheduling regular follow-up appointments with an oncologist and following the screening and/or prevention guidelines that your provider recommends. I also tell my patients to try, as best as they can, not to worry.

It is easy to see how breast surgery, radiation, and some of the side effects from systemic therapy (which, depending on treatment, can include hair loss, nausea, fatigue, weight gain, hot flashes, joint aches, or other unpleasant symptoms) can wreak havoc on a woman’s self esteem. In addition, many women are used to serving as a support system for their spouse, children, parents, or other loved ones; and to being responsible for important matters at work and at home. Learning to accept help and support rather than giving it can be very challenging. I always recommend honest conversations with family and loved ones, and involving a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist if patients are interested and willing to pursue this. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk with someone outside of one’s immediate network of family and friends to try to sort through some of the feelings surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Support groups can also be helpful; hearing from others who are going through the same thing (perhaps at similar points in life and/or stages of the disease), can help normalize the experience.

Physical changes to the breast – scars from lumpectomy or mastectomy, getting used to the look and feel of reconstructed breasts (if this approach is chosen), and radiation-related changes – can make women less comfortable with their bodies and therefore less comfortable being intimate. These changes can also make them worry about whether a partner will still find them attractive. In addition, some of the systemic treatments used in breast cancer, such as chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy, can change hormone levels and decrease interest in intimacy. I always recommend sharing these concerns with your doctor or health care team. Talking with a social worker, psychologist, or even sex therapist can be helpful in dealing with some of the complicated feelings surrounding the look and feel of the breasts after treatment for breast cancer. There are also a number of options for managing symptoms like vaginal dryness, which can be a result of chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy and can make intimacy uncomfortable. Finally, open communication with significant others is critical, as they too may be struggling to find the best way to show affection in this new situation. I have actually seen many situations where the diagnosis of breast cancer actually brings couples closer together, as they navigate the path from diagnosis to treatment and finally to recovery together.

About Dr. Meisel

jane lowe meiselJane Lowe Meisel, MD, joined the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship Cancer Institute as a practicing physician in January 2015. Prior to her arrival, she was Chief Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Meisel is a medical oncologist with a special interest in women’s health and in cancers that affect women, including breast, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. Her goal is to provide exceptional, state-of-the-art individualized care to patients fighting these diseases and to conduct research that improves treatment options for these patients.


Exercise, Diet and Breast Cancer
Take-Aways from Breast Cancer Chat with Heather Pinkerton, BSN
Advancements in Imaging for Early Breast Cancer Detection
Latest in Breast Cancer Research
Breast cancer care at Winship
Social services at Winship
Support groups at Winship

Winship Cancer Institute Expands Hospital Access

winship expands sign picWinship Cancer Institute has expanded access to its high quality cancer care in alignment with its broad clinical research program at both Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital (ESJH) and Emory Johns Creek Hospital (EJCH). In addition, Winship has established the Winship Cancer Network as a means to improve access to such vital services throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

Longstanding and continued support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has enabled Winship to advance cancer care and access to services like these for tens of thousands of patients throughout Georgia and beyond.

In addition to expanding services at ESJH and EJCH, the Woodruff Foundation’s most recent grant will be used to expand and improve Winship’s Shared Resource portfolio with special emphasis on its Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program. Researchers in this program are continually evaluating the best methods to reduce and eliminate the development of cancer among high-risk individuals across Georgia and the Southeast.

winship expansion banner

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Emory Johns Creek Hospital
Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital

Cancer Clinical Study Leads to Video Tool for Prostate Cancer Patients

At Emory, research plays a key role in the mission to serve our patients and their families. Medical advances and improvements to patient care have been made possible by research and volunteer participation in clinical trials. More than 1,000 clinical trials are offered at Emory, making a difference in people’s lives, today.

Recently, a clinical study initiated by Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, found that providing prostate cancer patients with a video-based education tool significantly improved their understanding of key terms necessary to making decisions about their treatment.

The breakthrough study was led by three Winship at Emory investigators; Viraj Master, MD, PhD, FACS; Ashesh Jani, MD; and Michael Goodman, MD, MPH; and is the feature cover story of this month’s Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

In 2013, Master, Jani and Goodman released an Emory study that showed that prostate cancer patients (treated at Grady Hospital in Atlanta) experienced a severe lack of understanding of prostate key terms. The original study showed only 15 percent of the patients understood the meaning of “incontinence”; less than a third understood “urinary function” and “bowel habits”; and fewer than 50 percent understood the word “impotence.”

In response to their findings, the three principle investigators jumped to find a solution to the problem. The latest study explored using a video-based tool to educate prostate cancer patients on key terminology. The physicians predicted that with a better understanding of terms linked to disease, patients would be able to participate in shared and informed decision-making throughout the prostate cancer treatment process.

About the Prostate Cancer Video Trial:

  • 56 male patients were recruited from two low-income safety net clinics and received a key term comprehension test before and after viewing the educational video.
  • The video software (viewed by participants on iPads) featured narrated animations depicting 26 terms that doctors and medical staff frequently use in talking with prostate cancer patients.
  • Learn more by watching this video:

clinical trials for prostate cancer

Results of the Prostate Cancer Video Trial:

Participants who viewed the educational video demonstrated statistically significant improvements in comprehension of prostate terminology. For instance, before viewing the application, 14 percent of the men understood “incontinence”; afterward, 50 percent of them demonstrated understanding of the term.

“This shows that video tools can help patients understand these critical prostate health terms in a meaningful way. The ultimate goal is to give patients a vocabulary toolkit to further enable them to make shared and informed decisions about their treatment options,” says Viraj Master. “Our next goal is to improve the tool further, and study this tool at different centers.”

Learn more about clinical trials at Emory >>

Find a clinical trial at Emory >>


Additional Information about the Prostate Cancer Trial:

The research for this study was made possible by a Winship Cancer Institute multi-investigator pilot grant and the contributions of faculty and students from Winship, the Rollins School of Public Health and the Emory School of Medicine.

This study was led by three Winship at Emory investigators: Viraj Master, MD, PhD, FACS, Winship urologist and director of clinical research in the Department of Urology at Emory University; Ashesh Jani, MD, professor of radiation oncology in the Emory School of Medicine; and Michael Goodman, MD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology with the Rollins School of Public Health.

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When Your Partner Fails You

Cancer Support(This blog was originally posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 on the WebMD website)

Along with the worries, sadness and frustrations of dealing with cancer, many patients experience the heartbreak of their loved one failing to support them. How could a life partner or spouse fail you during cancer? There are many ways, some more obvious than others.

Jan’s husband never came to any appointments, ever. He never learned about her diagnosis, her treatment plan, the side effects of the medicines or the recommendations for how she might improve her energy and strength. He blamed the lymphedema in her arm after her surgery on her “lazy lifestyle.” He told her that support groups were for “wimps” and even took some of her pain medicine for himself.

Sally’s partner came to every appointment – he would never let anyone else bring her. He kept a medical notebook with her test results and argued with every doctor about each treatment plan. He would not let her eat any ice cream or cookies because he thought the sugar would make her tumor grow, even though Sally was at a very healthy weight and ate a very balanced diet.

Gary’s girlfriend would never stop talking about herself. At appointments with the oncologist she would ask questions about breast cancer even though Gary had lymphoma. She repeatedly complained about Gary being at home instead of work, “having him around the house all day is making me crazy, I need my space!” She had no understanding of cancer fatigue: “he looks fine, no vomiting or fever – he should be able to do more!” In the past Gary had been able to participate in his girlfriend’s extremely busy social schedule, but after lymphoma, he asked his girlfriend about limiting their social time to just close friends. His girlfriend insisted on accepting every invitation, and started leaving Gary at home, alone.

Some spouses and partners don’t get it, but they want to, which is huge. If a loved one wants to do better, there is hope for the relationship. If you’re the partner — not the patient — in this scenario, and you’re wondering how to recover from your initial missteps, here’s what I would suggest: Start by setting aside time when there are not any children yelling or bills to be paid or dishes to be done. Begin with a question, “so how are things going for you?“ Wait for an answer. Listen. Then ask “Anything I can do to help?” Breathe, pause, listen. Maybe put your hand on your partner’s shoulder, gently, in order to emphasize you are listening. If you start getting yelled at for being late once 6 months ago, breathe deeply, and respond simply, “I am sorry I was late, but now I really want to help, and do better. Let’s keep talking, but no yelling please.” Make eye contact and smile.

Sally’s partner took the advice above, he set aside the time, took several deep breaths, and listened. He listened closely because he really did love her, and wanted to know how she was doing. He admitted that he had hoped to stop the cancer by controlling everything about her medical care and diet. Sally was able to explain she did appreciate the help with scheduling and tracking her medicines, but she did not want to be treated as an invalid or a small child. Sally’s partner was eventually able to become the partner she needed – a partner interested in caring for her but also respectful of her autonomy.

Gary spent a lot of time after cancer treatment thinking about what kind of life partner he wanted. Reflecting back over the years, he was able to see that his girlfriend had always been self-absorbed. Friday nights, she chose the restaurant; Sunday morning she picked the breakfast; and during the week she rarely asked how Gary was doing at work. Gary realized that he would rather be alone than in a relationship with someone who only cared about herself. “After everything I have been through, I deserve real love.”

Jan always knew that her husband drank too much, but she had hoped he would stop on his own. Through her cancer treatment Jan was terribly embarrassed that her husband was not at appointments. On the day Jan came home to tell her husband that the oncologist told her she was cancer free, he was passed out on the couch. Not being able to share the journey, or the joy in the recovery, pushed Jan to tell her husband that she wanted a divorce. When he realized Jan was actually planning to leave him, he knew he had to get sober. The addiction to alcohol had robbed Jan’s husband of the chance to be a support when his wife really needed him. The only hope for the marriage was for him to get completely sober, and with medical care, Jan’s husband finally stopped drinking. Once sober, he returned to being the kind of husband Jan remembered from when they were first married. He cooked pasta dinners, rubbed her feet in the evening, and actively listened when she talked about her health concerns and hope for the future.

We all hope that our partner will step up and be there for us if we need them, but sometimes they don’t support us as we’d hoped. There are a variety of reasons why a loved one may fail during cancer treatment, and the psychological work is to realize the failure is about their issues, not about you or your self worth. If there is genuine caring, and a real desire for a loving relationship, a couple may get through the challenge of cancer. And if not, there may be grieving process if the relationship fails, but there is great beauty in a cancer survivor taking steps to be in the healthiest, most loving relationship possible. After cancer, you deserve it.

About Dr. Baer

Wendy Baer, MDWendy Baer, MD, is medical director of psychiatric oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, with appointments in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences in the Emory School of Medicine, and the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Winship.

In her work at the Winship Cancer Institute, Dr. Baer helps patients and their families deal with the stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. As a psychiatrist, she has expertise in treating clinical depression and anxiety both with medications and with psychotherapy to help people manage emotions, behaviors, and relationships. The fundamental goal of Dr. Baer’s practice is to promote wellness and maximize patients’ quality of life as much as possible. She believes strongly in the team approach to patient care and collaborates regularly with the doctors, nurses, and social workers that make up a patient’s care team.

Dr. Baer attended medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with honors. From UNC she went to the University of Pennsylvania, where she completed her residency in psychiatry and served as the chief resident in her senior year. Prior to moving to Atlanta, Dr. Baer worked with patients dealing with cancer at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, WA.

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Why Winship?

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University“For every question that we answer or seek to answer, new questions arise.”

Winship’s executive director, Wally Curran , MD, said that in answer to an interview question about Winship, and I think it provides insight on the incremental way that progress is made against cancer.

It also helps describe the dedication of cancer doctors and researchers who are willing to keep pursuing answers to this vastly complex puzzle.

The communications team at Winship has been asking another type of question lately: “Why Winship?” The answers we got are now the basis of a website, social media and poster campaign highlighting stories that show how our doctors, researchers and healthcare staff make discoveries and translate the latest breakthroughs in cancer research into better treatments for patients.

The stories are told through the words and thoughts of people who have been treated at Winship, and through the Winship staff who work toward finding ever-better ways to defeat cancer.

Our first round of “Why Winship?” videos, now on our website, features a group of Winship physicians who represent the comprehensive spectrum of patient care we are able to offer, from the latest drug and radiation therapies, to innovative surgical techniques. Here is a sampling of their thoughts on what makes Winship a unique place for them.

“Winship is about depth and breadth. It’s the depth and breadth of our team that approaches a cancer problem. For example, in lung cancer, we have depth and breadth in the surgical, pulmonary, oncology, scientific, and epidemiologic teams which confront the leading cancer killer. Without the depth and breadth, we could not make the progress for a given patient and we also could not make the progress for a given problem as complex as lung cancer.”

“I think there is a spirit of humility and genuine discovery that suffuses the place. People want to know not just why, but why didn’t a treatment work, why didn’t a patient benefit, and go back to understand from every specific patient encounter how we can do better and more importantly how we can help them to do better.”

“With that team effort, [you’re] getting the best technology, multi-modality therapy with what we call translational research and the up-to-date protocols and everything in one place. Rather than having to hunt around to get the best in each thing you have it right here. An example is our sarcoma conference. There’s a thoracic surgeon, a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist, everyone is right there at the same time talking about the patient…. you have the best of everything right there.”

Winship Radiation Oncologist
“I know that I am going to be supported to go in the direction I think is most cutting edge that is the best for my patients… You have to have an administration that has a long-term vision of that. You don’t see that commonly and we have that at Winship Cancer Institute.”

Winship Urologist
“What gets me really excited about working at Winship is I have the ability to have incredible collaborative efforts that take place every day, and I particularly point out my colleagues in surgery, be it thoracic surgery, vascular surgery, surgical oncology. We work well together because we truly believe that the sum is greater than the individual. It allows us to do operations that I only dreamed of doing when I was in training, and we do it better here at Winship than anywhere else.”

About Catherine Williams

catherine-williams-2014As Senior Communications Manager for Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Catherine Williams creates print, video and electronic communications materials and serves as a media relations contact for consumer health, news and science media.

Catherine came to Winship after 30 years as a television producer in New York, Washington and Atlanta, producing news, magazine and documentary programming. She has won awards for special reports covering health/science, public affairs and entertainment. She says news was exciting but nothing compares to the satisfaction of working with the dedicated and inspiring staff of Winship.

A Look Back at Winship Cancer Institute’s Extraordinary 2014

Since 1937, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has provided cancer patients throughout Georgia, the Southeast and beyond, with outstanding patient care and research, and 2014 was no exception. From several national recognitions to record-setting fundraising goals, Winship at Emory continues to be among the leaders in the state of Georgia and the nation in finding ways to defeat cancer. While we enter 2015 with excitement and expectancy, the administrators, physicians and researchers of Winship at Emory have taken time to celebrate the remarkable last year. Click on the “Year in Review” video below to see some of Winship’s highlights from 2014, including:

Key 2014 milestones:

  • U.S. News & World Report ranked cancer care at Emory University Hospital through Winship among the 25 best in the country.
  • Nurses at Emory University Hospital and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital were honored with the prestigious Magnet award for excellence in patient care.
  • Winship was the only cancer center in Georgia named as one of 30 U.S. cancer centers for the new National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network.
  • Winship exceeded its fundraising goal for the Win the Fight 5K in September, bringing in more than $600,000 for cancer research.

Winship 2014

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5,000-Mile Bone Marrow Transplant Connection

Bone Marrow Transplant Donor

I just celebrated the 5th anniversary of my bone marrow transplant, and I can’t believe it’s been 5 years. In some ways, it feels like yesterday, but in other ways, it seems like forever ago when I first learned that I would need a life-saving transplant …

I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in 2007, and I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, which thankfully, resulted in remission. To celebrate the journey and one year of remission, my family and I planned a trip to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We were so excited to celebrate! We planned to leave on a Sunday in June, and I had one more appointment on the Friday before we left. At that appointment, I found out I had relapsed; the leukemia was back. Absolutely devastated, we decided to postpone the trip and start treatment right away instead.

I was evaluated for a bone marrow transplant, and they found a perfect match who was available and willing to donate. By God’s grace, I received my transplant on August 15, 2009. All I knew at that point was that my donor was male, 21 years old, and from another country. I remember writing him a card and sending it through the Be The Match organization to let him know how my recovery was going. Because he was an international donor, we couldn’t exchange information for two years. After two long years of anonymous letters, my donor Johannes and I were able to learn each other’s names and locations. We immediately made contact and began emailing. It was so incredible to be able to talk with the man who saved my life! How could I even begin to put my gratitude into words?!

My family and I decided to re-schedule the trip we had postponed for summer 2012, and we couldn’t wait to finally go – we had so much more to celebrate! That trip was symbolic of God’s healing and grace, and it became even more significant when Johannes and his dad agreed to meet us in London to spend a few days together.

It was an experience of a lifetime! There I was, sitting in a London pub, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the man who gave me the gift of life. It was so amazing to spend a few days exploring London with Johannes and his dad Bernd. God is so good – He healed me and blessed me with two new family members from Germany. What an incredible gift!

Fast forward three years, a dozen Skype sessions, tons of emails, and countless postcards – Johannes surprised me with the news that he and his girlfriend Tina were coming to Georgia to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of my transplant — I call it my transplantiversary. They arrived on Aug. 15 and we spent the weekend camping out at Lake Lanier with friends and family. I loved every minute of it!

We also took Johannes and Tina to tour Winship and meet some of my doctors and practitioners, which was an amazing experience. We went to the hospital and showed Johannes around the unit where I spent so much of my time surrounding the transplant. God is so faithful – it felt like I had come full circle to be able to return to Emory with my donor and celebrate complete healing. What a beautiful experience!

I will forever be connected to Johannes and his family, and it is all because he joined the bone marrow registry in Germany. Through God’s grace, Johannes gave me the gift of life, for which I could never fully express my gratitude. My prayer and my hope is that others will be inspired to join the registry as well – there are so many people who need this life-saving gift, and you could be the match for them! The registration requires a simple cheek swab, and you can request a kit at You, too, could save a life!

About Erin Blonshine

Erin Blonshine lives in Gwinnett County and works as a hospital teacher in the School Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. She felt called to work with children and families experiencing challenges similar to her own. Erin feels blessed by the unique opportunity to serve others in her role at CHOA.
Erin enjoys spending time with her family, including her one month old niece and her two-and-a-half year old nephew. She also loves to travel, hang out with her friends, and relax at Lake Burton.

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Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Story: Georgia Teacher Finds Perfect Match Across the Globe

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Story: Georgia Teacher Finds Perfect Match Across the Globe

Bone Marrow Transplant Patient StoryErin Blonshine, a 29 year old teacher from Dacula, Georgia, was diagnosed at 21 with AML, a form of Leukemia. Across the globe, Johannes Saur from Ulm, in southern Germany had joined his country’s bone marrow registry at the age of 18, and at 20, when Erin was diagnosed, Johannes got a call that he was a match for an American. At that time, Erin’s cancer went into remission before the transplant was needed, but a year later, it resurfaced. “Her leukemia relapsed, and we knew that the only potential cure was a transplant,” says Amelia Langston, MD, Medical Director of Winship’s Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center. In August of 2009, Johanne’s bone marrow was flown to the U.S. for Erin’s transplant, and today, she has made a complete recovery. “5 years, for most leukemia survivors, means cure. It means we’re done worrying about the leukemia,” says Langston. If Erin ever wondered if her perfect match was out there, now she knows. To learn more about Winship’s Bone Marrow Transplant Center and Erin’s journey to recovery after her transplant, check out the video story from Fox 5 News below:

Growing Hope Together!

Mary BrookhartI was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 33. A cancer diagnosis always comes as a shock, but it’s particularly unexpected at that age. Because my mother had breast cancer at a young age, a new provider sent me for my base line screening mammogram and that turned out to be my first and only mammogram. I can say without a doubt that a mammogram saved my life.

I was treated here at Winship, by Dr. Toncred Styblo and Dr. David Lawson. Twenty-five years later, all three of us are still here. I came back to Winship six years ago, but not as a patient. I took a job as supervisor of business operations for the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship, and I am one of the organizers of the Celebration of Living event coming up this Sat., June 21.

That’s why the Celebration of Living event is so near and dear to my heart. This is a chance to get together with other survivors, and discover that part of being a survivor is learning that it’s ok to let fun and humor back into your life. Learn to let the fear go and not let it rule your life. Coming to the Celebration of Living event can be a first step toward getting back out into the world, or it can be a continuation of your on-going journey. We all know that battling cancer has very dark moments, but I hope we can bring some hope and lightness into your life.

So I invite all cancer survivors, their family members and friends to come share this special day. There will be workshops for the mind, body and soul, as well as music, food and companionship. It’s free and open to all. Detailed information is available on our website.

I see more and more people surviving cancer because of new and better treatments and earlier detection. In the time since I got my screening mammogram, the technology has greatly improved. Emory and Winship are now offering state-of-the-art 3D mammograms (also called tomosynthesis) at no additional charge above the cost of standard mammograms, so that all women can benefit from this more precise screening technology. For more information about this new service and where it’s available, check out this video about 3D mammography at Emory Healthcare.

For some, the idea of living a normal lifespan with cancer as a chronic disease is a reality.

My hope is that one day, all cancer patients will enjoy a lifetime of survivorship.

Mary Brookhart,
Cancer Survivor

About Mary Brookhart

Mary Brookhart grew up in Ohio before moving to Georgia to get away from the snow. There she enjoyed a 20+ year career in advertising and design. In 2008, looking for something more rewarding, Mary returned to Winship, this time, not as a patient, but as supervisor of business operations for the Emory Glenn Family Breast Center. Besides serving as an advocate for breast cancer patients, Mary coordinates screenings for mammograms and the Emory’s Breast Cancer Seminar for the Newly Diagnosed breast cancer patient. She currently lives in rural Conyers, with her husband of 37 years, and their three horses.

What You Need to Know About Personalized Cancer Care

personal cancer careThe most promising advances in cancer treatment today center around personalized or precision medicine, but what exactly does that mean? We asked Dr. Fadlo Khuri, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, to explain the terms and help us understand who is benefitting from these types of treatment.

Q: What is personalized or precision medicine in cancer treatment?

Khuri: The best individualized care plan for every patient is one that delivers the most precise, informed and effective treatment possible. One of the new tools we use today in order to add to the patient’s medical history, social history, and pathologic diagnosis, is modern molecular testing.

Q: What is molecular testing?

Khuri: Molecular testing in cancer is performed on tissue taken during a tumor biopsy. Several tests can be done to reveal the genetic makeup of the mutation present in the cells of a particular cancer, such as non-small cell lung cancer. This genetic mapping, or DNA sequencing, is called genomics.

Q: People are familiar with genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutations that cause ovarian and breast cancers. But how are genomics or genetic targeting used in cancer treatment?

Khuri: Genomics uses modern DNA sequencing methods, recombinant DNA and informatics to study the complete genetic makeup of individual cells, patients, populations and their diseases. We learn how certain gene mutations, such as EGFR or ALK mutations in lung cancer, determine a tumor’s behavior and survival. We use these driver mutations to design treatments that specifically target the protein product of the mutated (or altered) genes. This leads to more targeted treatments based on an individual patient’s cancer.

Q: What is immunotherapy and how is it being used at Winship?

Khuri: Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that stimulates a patient’s own immune system to either work harder overall, or to attack cancer cells specifically. We are exploring immunotherapy at Winship through research and clinical trials. We have a series of clinical trials designed to activate or drive the immune system to recognize the individual’s cancer as foreign to their body, such as vaccines or immune checkpoint inhibitors, to attack the tumor.

Q: Which type of patients benefit from immunotherapy?

Khuri: Patients with leukemia, lymphomas, myeloma, lung cancer, kidney cancer and especially melanoma seem to benefit from immunotherapy. Other diseases are also being studied. Immunotherapies are demonstrating durable (long lasting) responses in a number of the above tumor types, and this has added a powerful new option to the toolbox of targeted therapies of cancer.

Q: What are the advantages and challenges?

Khuri: The advantages include the durability of the responses seen, but the people with cancer who benefit are in the minority so far. Efforts at developing efficient and precise ways to deliver immunotherapy are ongoing.

Q: What is the latest research at Winship that is related to precision medicine?

Khuri: Winship has clinical trials in myeloma, lung cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma which target specific driver mutations and are excellent examples of precision medicine.

Q: How have these approaches changed the way doctors now treat cancer patients?

Khuri: Many centers, like Winship, do reflex testing, which automatically sends a patient’s sample for a molecular screening panel that looks for tumor mutations. Certain gene mutations are known to drive cancer growth, cause drug resistance or susceptibility, or are currently under investigation as therapeutic targets in clinical trials, so the results of those tests can determine the type of treatment a patient receives.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo 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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Genomic Testing for Lung Cancer: What Does it Mean for You?