National Doctors Day: Behind great medical care, there's research

March 30, 2015 | by Valerie Zapanta

Today is National Doctors Day, the official day to recognize, thank and celebrate the tremendous work physicians do each and every day.

Launched in 1991 via a presidential proclamation from then-President George Bush, the observance offers a chance to reflect on the qualities that define truly great medical care. Compassion and expertise are vital, of course, as is the intuitive understanding that each patient must be treated as a person, not his or her disease. But research is vital as well.

research and doctors day The proclamation launching National Doctors Day highlights the impact of research. So does City of Hope.

As the proclamation states: "The day-to-day work of healing conducted by physicians throughout the United States has been shaped, in large part, by great pioneers in medical research."

Here, we acknowledge a few of the City of Hope physicians working to improve care and treatment of patients everywhere by maximizing the most leading-edge research from around the world – and by conducting it themselves at City of Hope.

Karen S. Aboody, M.D.: Pushing the frontiers of brain cancer therapy

Although the mass of a glioblastoma, the most aggressive and common type of primary brain tumor in adults, can be removed surgically, removal of all the tumor cells is virtually impossible – meaning recurrence is common. Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope, believes the answer could lie in special cells called neural stem cells. Neural stem cells are known for their ability to become any type of cell in the nervous system. These cells not only are attracted to cancer cells, they have the ability to deliver drugs directly to the tumor sites, sparing healthy tissues and minimizing side effects. City of Hope is currently conducting a phase I clinical trial of neural stem cells to treat glioblastoma.

Yuman Fong, M.D.: Refining the treatment of bile duct cancer

Cancer of the bile duct is rare in the United States, most often occurring in people over the age of 65. In this country, between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of bile duct cancer are diagnosed each year. City of Hope physicians are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of bile duct cancer, bringing an aggressive, multidisciplinary approach to the disease. Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery, has refined surgical techniques for bile duct and other cancers that have made their treatment less invasive and more effective. Drug treatment options have improved as well. "Over last decade, because of work by pretty amazing chemotherapists and researchers, our chemotherapy has gotten much, much better," Fong said.

Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D.: Building a comprehensive approach to curing diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and kills the body’s insulin-producing islet cells. Transplantation of healthy islet cells is the first step toward freedom from the constant need to add external insulin to the body. In 2004, Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism, led the first islet cell transplantation at City of Hope. Since that time, Kandeel has been developing a comprehensive approach to curing diabetes. Treatments would include those that encourage the patient’s own immune system to stop killing insulin-producing islet cells that support their transplantation and that eliminate the need for toxic anti-rejection drugs.

Joseph Kim, M.D.: Putting a new spin on PET and CT scans for stomach cancer

As head of Upper GI Surgery at City of Hope and a specialist in gastric cancer, Joseph Kim, M.D., together with his research colleagues, are exploring the potential of two imaging methods to increase the ability to see inside the body, which is crucial in the treatment of stomach cancer, or gastric cancer. One imaging study will assess the use of PET scans and Herceptin, a drug best known for treating breast cancer, in the treatment of stomach cancer. The other study will use specialized CT scans to determine the stage of cancer ahead of surgery. Listen to Kim's podcast about stomach cancer.

Amrita Y. Krishnan, M.D.: Maximizing the potential of targeted drugs for myeloma

Targeted therapies have become the norm in the treatment of many cancers, but not myeloma. That is now changing. Two new medications are showing promise in the targeted treatment of multiple myeloma: daratumumab and SAR650984. Both drugs target different sites on the same receptor, so if a patient does not respond to one of them, he or she may respond to the other. “The most important thing is that these are targeting the patients who have high-risk disease who have been refractory to the other agents we’ve had standardly available,” said Amrita Y. Krishnan, M.D., director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at City of Hope. “To see responses in these very advanced patients is extremely compelling.”

Doctors Day - care On Doctors Day, celebrate the combination of high-quality compassionate care and leading-edge research.

Laura L. Kruper, M.D.: Bringing surgical advances to breast cancer patients

Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, but the surgical treatment of the disease brings with it a host of physical and emotional ramifications. Laura L. Kruper, M.D., head of breast surgery service at City of Hope, understands the importance of maximizing a treatment's impact and minimizing its side effects. Advanced skin- and nipple-sparing techniques, as well as leading-edge plastic and reconstructive procedures, can effectively treat breast cancer while reducing the impact on physical appearance. Listen to her podcast about breast cancer surgery.

Sumanta Pal, M.D.: Ushering in the dawn of precision medicine for cancer

"Precision medicine entails two general tenets: (1) understanding the biology of an individual patient’s cancer, and (2) treating the patient according to this biology. When I was in medical school, both elements would have been perceived as a pipe dream. Now, they are slowly becoming a reality." So writes Sumanta Pal, M.D., an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, in this article on precision medicine. In the article, he explains how his use of precision medicine saved the life of one of his patients – and what the future of this approach is likely to be.

Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S.: Perfecting the art, and science, of treatment customization

Chemotherapy is widely used but, as we all know, far from perfect. Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope, is developing better options. “The main problem with chemotherapy, and even the targeted therapies that we have, is that at some point the tumor becomes resistant to the treatment,” she said in this overview of lung cancer research in 2015. That’s why Reckamp is exploring targeted immune therapies that can activate one’s own immune system to attack cancer, specifically lung cancer. Although still in the clinical trial phase, these immune therapies are showing long-term responses.

George Somlo, M.D.: Offering options to women with triple-negative breast cancer 

Triple-negative breast cancer is among the most difficult types of breast cancer to treat, but George Somlo, M.D., professor in the departments of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research and Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, shows it's not impossible. “Our current focus is to treat newly diagnosed triple-negative breast cancers aggressively in the preoperative setting, in order to destroy cancer cells even before patients are operated upon,” Somlo said. “Once the tumor is completely eliminated or at least reduced in size with chemotherapy, surgery follows. In fact, patients with newly diagnosed triple-negative breast cancer without recurrence within the first five years after diagnosis are likely cured.” Read about Somlo's clinical trial for triple-negative breast cancer.

Jonathan Yamzon, M.D.: Wielding advanced technology for prostate cancer biopsies

Standard prostate biopsies haven't changed significantly in the past 30 years. Regular biopsies have an expected error rate: Some tumors may be missed, and others may be more aggressive than expected based on the initial biopsy. Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, says that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/ultrasound fusion biopsy allows for more targeted biopsies and fewer missed cancers. He's exploring the use of this technology for the benefit of his patients.

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This list is far from comprehensive: All physicians at City of Hope maximize the most leading-edge research, technology, medications and techniques. Rather, it's meant to highlight the wide range of research and treatment at City of Hope – and the doctors who provide it.

On this day, National Doctors Day, take the opportunity to thank your doctor. By performing research or maximizing its results, he or she is saving lives.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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