Posts Tagged ‘winship cancer institute’

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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Honoring the Life of a Winship Team Member in the Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden

Julie Leff

Julie Leff

When beloved Winship nurse Julie Leff passed away in May, director of nursing, Kevin Schreffler, and his colleagues wanted to honor her legacy. Described by her peers as “calm, wise and the kind of person who always did more than asked of her,” Julie’s selfless heart not only touched her patients on a daily basis, but also her fellow team members, whom she continuously supported and inspired, even when she was undergoing her own cancer treatment.

“It is not often at Winship that we are faced with the loss of one of our own team members – who we often think of as our own family,” Schreffler says.  “In those times, we all come together to support one another, offer comfort, and think of ways to honor the memory of the individual.”

Paver in honor of Julie Leff

To demonstrate the impact Julie had on those she worked with, Kevin and Julie’s closest peers got together and purchased a commemorative brick to go in Winship’s Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden. “The Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden is often where we reflect on those memories,” says Schreffler referring to memories with Julie. “The garden is truly a means of healing for patients, families and the whole Winship Team.”

Julie’s husband and daughters are also honoring her memory with a commemorative stone, and on Monday, October 28, the two new pavers were installed in the Garden.

Many people visiting Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University benefit from the beautiful and serene environment of the Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden. What makes the space even more special are the personalized pavers that line the garden featuring names of donors, loved ones and friends of Winship. Each paver is tied to an incredible story. Some pavers honor the lost lives of people like Julie, while others recognize the special individuals within Winship who “pave the way” for our patients and their families each day.

Healing Gardens at the Winship Cancer Institute

There is still space left in the Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden for more commemorative stone pavers. If you would like to honor a loved one with a personalized paver, or simply want more information, please visit our Healing Garden website, or call 404-712-9233.

Why We Run: A New Type of Togetherness

Bari Ellen & Charles RossBari Ellen and Charles Roberts always had a strong marriage. Togetherness was a major goal for the couple, who married in late midlife. Their shared experience of running a restaurant together, traveling together and moving across country to Arizona for a new life adventure strengthened their bond.

Their togetherness took a wayward turn in 2009, however, when the husband and wife were each diagnosed with cancer within two days of one another. Charles had been sick for months, but doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. Bari Ellen, who was feeling great physically, had gone to yet another doctor’s appointment with her husband. Charles suggested to the doctor that perhaps he just had an infection, as his wife seemed to have an infection, too.

“She’s got a lump on her neck. Maybe we both just have an infection,” Charles said.

The doctor took one look at the lump on Bari Ellen’s neck and said, “Make an appointment with the receptionist tomorrow.” It was a good thing that she did.

“They did a biopsy, and the doctor told me I had head and neck cancer and that it was pretty far gone. He said he didn’t know what he could do for me,” Bari Ellen remembered.

Her cancer was staged at 4B and the prognosis was poor. Two days after Bari Ellen received her bad news, lab results for Charlie came back announcing that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.

“We were in a swirl,” Bari Ellen said. “It just came out of nowhere.”

Within a week, Bari Ellen went to Atlanta at the suggestion of her daughter, who works at Emory, to get a second opinion. Her daughter had told her that maybe the couple could find hope and better news at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

“Once we got to Winship and saw their compassion and dedication and their sense of purpose, we got a sense of purpose and hope, too,” Bari Ellen said. “They gave us an action plan; they didn’t just write me off. We knew we had a fight before us, but we knew we could win it.”

Today, as survivors for four years, the Rosses are retired, enjoying grandchildren, exercising, volunteering and taking care to eat healthfully. They are also running races and this year, both of them are registered for the Winship Win the Fight 5K on October 5th. The couple have formed a team called the Ross Re-Missionaries, and are recruiting as many friends and family members as they can.

“After everything we’ve been through, and after everything they’ve done, I said ‘We’re going to start giving back,’” Bari Ellen said.

The randomness of their diagnoses helps the Rosses to understand the importance of cancer research, which is another reason they strongly support the Winship Win the Fight 5K. All money goes to cancer research at Winship and donors can choose a specific cancer type to which they would like to contribute.

“Our doctors were so phenomenal and did so much for us that we want to do whatever we can,” Bari Ellen said. “They saved our lives.”

The Winship Win the Fight 5K is fast upon us! If you want to run or simply help support other runners like the Roberts, visit the Winship 5K website for more information.

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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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Support Changes & Saves Lives for Bone Marrow Transplant Patients

William Fuentes, a father of two pre-schoolers and a manager at a McDonald’s, had a very busy life in Calhoun, Georgia, one of Atlanta’s northern suburbs. While his wife took care of the little ones, he still tried to help out around the house while managing the duties of a busy restaurant.

William’s busy life only got more complicated when the 30-year-old was diagnosed in 2012 with multiple myeloma, a disease he had never even heard of. The intense back pain he felt turned out to be a result of the disease. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and then he had to have surgery to repair some of the damage in his back.

And then treatment started. He needed a bone marrow transplant, often a complicated procedure best handled by a team that has a breadth and depth of experience to handle complications that may arise. He turned to the Emory Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

William Fuentes Multiple Myeloma Bone Marrow Transplant Patient

William Fuentes with his family.

William recalls being so afraid and yet wanting to be strong for his children. After they would go to sleep at night, sometimes he cried, he said.

“I just felt so all alone,” William recalls.

But he found the support he received from Winship and the Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplant Center not only saved his life, but changed his life. Enrollment in a clinical trial gave him access to a drug that worked on his type of myeloma, something he may not have received had he been treated elsewhere. Equally important to him was the compassionate care he received from his physician, Dr. Ajay Nooka, and the bone marrow transplant team.

“He is the nicest man I’ve ever met,” William said. “I couldn’t have asked for better treatment,” he says. Winship social workers made sure gas cards were available when funds ran low. A team of employees from the clinical trials unit came together and provided Christmas gifts for the Fuentes family.

“My wife is so thankful. We love it here,” says William.

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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.

Valerie Harper: An Energetic Will to Fight in the Face of Cancer

Valerie Harper Cancer DiagnosisWhat would you do if you were told you had an incurable disease and possibly only months to live? Actress Valerie Harper recently had to ask herself that question. This past January, Harper, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was told she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of incurable brain cancer.

Doctors told Harper, who already has battled lung cancer, that she could have as little as three months to live. Since going public with her news back in March, Harper has mentioned in several media appearances that she has gained strength from opening up about her battle with cancer. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Harper displayed great courage and an even greater attitude when asked about her devastating diagnosis. “There’s other ways to handle it than just sit on the couch and accept.”  Through her actions, Harper has demonstrated that she is doing anything but ‘sit on the couch and accept.’

Now, eight months since her diagnosis, Harper has yet to slow down. Instead, she is doing book tours and TV appearances, exercising and even starring in an upcoming TV movie, set to air January 2014.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of willpower is “energetic determination,” while the Cambridge American English Dictionary defines it as “the ability to control your own thoughts and behavior, especially in difficult situations.”

A cancer diagnosis affects each patient and his or her family members differently. Some people may enter a state of severe depression, while others go about their normal activities while only stopping to receive treatment. For Harper, energetic determination is the key to making sure every day is the best it can be.

What are your thoughts on Valerie’s reaction to her earth-shattering diagnosis? Do you think her willpower has anything to do with her outlook on life, or could it be her coping mechanism?

At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we understand that life after a cancer diagnosis can be anything but ordinary. Because of this understanding, we have developed our survivorship program to meet the needs of cancer survivors at any stage of cancer, from diagnosis to post-treatment. For more information on the Winship Survivorship Program, email survivorship@emoryhealthcare.org or call 404-778-0572.

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Winship Cancer Institute Recognized Among Best Cancer Centers in the U.S. by Men’s Health Magazine!

Best Cancer Hospitals in the U.S.Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has been named among the best cancer centers in the United States according to Men’s Health magazine!

The publication recognized Winship for its multi-specialty patient care and advanced clinical research. As Georgia’s first and only NCI-designated cancer center, Winship is honored to be the only hospital in Atlanta ranked on the best cancer centers list, and also recognized as one of the nation’s top cancer facilities.

From discovering a new treatment method for prostate cancer, to providing cancer survivors with unique support and wellness programs, at Winship, we are constantly working to discover better ways to prevent, detect, and treat many types of cancer.

Thank you to our community for inspiring us to bridge innovative medical research and technology with compassionate patient and family-centered care, each and every day. We are honored by this recognition!

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New Treatment for Prostate Cancer: Saint Joseph’s Hospital First in State to Treat Patient with Xofigo

Xofigo new prostate cancer treatment medicationA double bass player in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Doug Sommer claims he was just “in the right place at the right time with the right doctors,” when he was offered the opportunity to be the first in the state to receive a new treatment option for his prostate cancer.

Doug is the first patient in Georgia to receive a new FDA-approved radioactive therapeutic drug for advanced metastatic prostate cancer. He received the treatment, a single injection of radium Ra 223 dichloride, (brand name Xofigo) at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. This was the first of six injections. Xofigo has been shown to reduce bone pain and improve quality of life.

“Patients with a type of cancer called castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) with metastatic bone disease, who have failed hormone suppression therapy, now have a new treatment option for their disease.”

- Peter Rossi, MD, medical director of radiation oncology at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine & Winship Cancer Institute

Read more about this new treatment for prostate cancer on the Saint Joseph’s Hospital blog >>

Survivor Story: Debbie Church’s Battle with Breast Cancer

Debbie Church

Debbie Church is Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and a 5-year breast cancer survivor. Debbie has shared her story through the journey of survivorship below. We’re lucky to have Debbie and Saint Joseph’s Hospital as part of the Emory Healthcare family and we thank her for sharing her story. We hope our readers and community members are as inspired by her story as we are!

“Dick and I fell in love over 32 years ago and have never quite gotten over it! We have had some interesting moments, but we have made it through each challenge. Love always finds a way. Unexpectedly, our lives changed in an instant when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2008. We knew life would never be the same. Life is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

Read more of Debbie’s story on the Saint Joseph’s Hospital blog >>

About Debbie Church, BA
Debbie Church, BA in Psychology and History, Salem College, and a M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary Wake Forest and a Certified Cancer Services Navigator has worked in oncology for over 20 years. She is currently employed at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta as Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator. She has worked also as Director of Support Services and Chaplain at Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers, Atlanta Medical Center and various hospitals in the Southeast. She has spoken at many cancer events including GASCO Conferences here in Atlanta and other hospice and oncology centers in the southeast. She was a contributing author for Thomas Nelson’s Women’s Study Bible as well as publishing a book in 2010 with her husband, Don’t’ Ever Look Down; Surviving Cancer Together.