Prominent colorectal surgeon Julio Garcia-Aguilar, M.D., Ph.D., has been named chair of City of Hope’s Department of Surgery. Garcia-Aguilar, who joined City of Hope from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), took the helm Sept. 2.
At UCSF, Garcia-Aguilar was professor of surgery and chief of the Section of Colon and Rectal Surgery, as well as surgeon-in-chief of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He now leads of one of the largest academic departments at City of Hope.
“Dr. Garcia-Aguilar will be a significant asset to City of Hope and our patients,” said Alexandra Levine, M.D., chief medical officer. “He has a proven record as a researcher, physician, collaborator and mentor, and he brings a sense of collegiality and scientific excellence that will help our institution build for the future.”
|Julio Garcia-Aguilar now directs City of Hope’s Department of Surgery. (Photo by Walter Urie)|
Noted Garcia-Aguilar: “I’m enthusiastic about the quality of the staff and facilities at City of Hope and look forward to collaborating with faculty across disciplines here.”
Garcia-Aguilar has extensive surgical experience in the treatment of colon and rectal cancer, including laparoscopic surgery and multidisciplinary procedures for complex, advanced cancer, and conducts research to improve outcomes for patients with these cancers.
He is particularly interested in neoadjuvant and combined therapies for rectal cancer — the use of radiation therapy and chemotherapy to shrink rectal tumors before surgery. As principal investigator on a $3.1 million National Institutes of Health RO1 grant, Garcia-Aguilar is studying whether chemotherapy and radiation therapy works so well in certain patients with rectal cancer that they may eventually be able to avoid surgery altogether, improving quality of life, reducing complications and lowering health-care costs.
Garcia-Aguilar also is principal investigator of the Z6041 trial, a multicenter study sponsored by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group that examines whether chemotherapy and radiation can shrink tumors in selected early rectal cancer patients enough that they can then be treated through a simple surgical excision of their remaining tumor. Today, these patients are usually treated through complete removal of the rectum and other surrounding tissue — a procedure that often leaves them with a colostomy.
In addition, he investigates genetic markers linked to rectal cancer. Scientists hope these markers may serve as clues to predict whether patients’ tumors are likely to return after therapy, potentially improving treatment decisions.
A native of Spain, Garcia-Aguilar completed his medical education and residency in surgery at Madrid College of Physicians in 1985. He then served as a surgical resident at Beth Israel Hospital and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University before returning to Spain and obtaining his doctorate from the Madrid College of Physicians in 1990.
Garcia-Aguilar returned to Beth Israel Hospital as chief resident in surgery in 1991 and completed a fellowship in University of Minnesota’s highly regarded colon and rectal surgery program in 1993 before joining the university’s faculty three years later. He eventually rose to the rank of associate professor before moving to UCSF.
In addition to serving as a reviewer for numerous journals, he is co-editor of Diseases of the Colon and Rectum. He also serves as a member of the board of trustees of the research foundation for the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. Garcia-Aguilar has published more than 60 research papers and edited three books, as well as other publications, and is a frequent invited speaker at medical centers and conferences throughout the world.