By the end of 2016, an estimated 1.7 million Americans will be newly diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. At least four in every 10 of us will sometime in our lifetime be told we have cancer.
For individuals in northeast Indiana and beyond, the Lutheran Cancer Center offers advanced treatment with proven efficacy as well as an opportunity to participate in clinical trials of new treatments that are improving survival rates and quality of life for those who hear the words, “You have cancer.”
“Not all cancers are death sentences. Cancer survival rates since the 1950s have tripled,” says Dr. R.V. Prasad Mantravadi with Radiation Oncology Associates (ROA). He is part of a comprehensive team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, technologists, dietitians, social workers, pathologists, radiologists and other highly trained individuals who are moving cancer treatment forward. They are gaining national recognition for Lutheran’s cancer program, located in the comprehensive cancer center on the Lutheran Hospital campus.
Mortality from breast cancer, the number one cancer in U.S. women, is declining at a rate of nearly two percent per year. Deaths from head, neck, prostate and many childhood cancers are also notably declining with early diagnoses, better drug therapies, improved technologies and sharing of clinical data, all elements offered through the Lutheran Cancer Center.
In April, the TrueBeamTM system, one of the most advanced radiotherapy technologies in existence and the only such system in the region, was installed by ROA and is available to patients who receive care at its Lutheran Cancer Center location. This sophisticated linear accelerator delivers treatments in less than two minutes that would take up to 30 minutes with previous accelerators. TrueBeamTM compensates for body motion such as breathing, Mantravadi explains; every 10 milliseconds the system checks the accuracy of dose delivery and radiation beam shape, thus better protecting healthy tissues and organs.
Stereotactic body radiotherapy, or SBRT, is another cutting-edge radiotherapy treatment available to Lutheran Cancer Center patients. With SBRT, larger doses of precisely targeted radiation can be given in far fewer treatments compared to conventional external beam radiotherapy. SBRT can be used for primary tumors as well as those that have metastasized, or spread, to other organs.
According to Dr. Sunil Babu, research director with Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology (FWMOH), despite improved survival rates for early-stage cancer, the timing of diagnosis remains an essential factor in determining the most appropriate treatment course. Though not all cancers may be cured, survival time and quality of life are improved, thanks to access to enhanced treatments including the latest clinical trials, which are available at the Lutheran Cancer Center.
Finding effective agents against resistant cancer cells involves genetic analyses and molecular profiling. Medical oncology is a “fast moving field,” Babu says. The best treatment may be to target the site of the cell or to block the mutated cell’s ability to multiply.
“We look for patterns that can predict if the treatment is likely to work,” Babu says.
The Lutheran Cancer Center currently is participating in more than 30 medical oncology and 20 radiotherapy clinical trials. All studies meet stringent federal standards. The center is part of numerous national, state and regional data-sharing organizations such as the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, the Hoosier Cancer Research Network and the University of Chicago Phase II Consortium. Earlier this year, FWMOH became one of just 50 clinical research sites in the nation, and the only one in Indiana, to be invited to join Translational Research in Oncology (TRIO-USA), a nonprofit clinical research organization based at UCLA. Many innovative clinical trials are offered at the Lutheran Cancer Center through this partnership.
Hope is close to home for people with leukemias, which are blood cancers that are fatal without treatment. Lutheran Hospital’s inpatient oncology unit offers life-saving treatment. For leukemia patients who have not responded to standard treatments, access to clinical trials at the Lutheran Cancer Center is an additional lifeline of hope.
Patients enrolled in clinical trials can be assured they receive, at a minimum, the current standard of care for their type of cancer, Mantravadi says, adding, “We tell patients the (trial) treatment may improve your outcome or be equal to what your current treatment is. There is nothing to lose.”
What: New Directions in Breast Cancer Care,” a regional symposium for health care providers and the public
When: October 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where: Kachmann Auditorium, on the lower level of Medical Office Building Two on the Lutheran Hospital campus, 7910 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Details: Keynote speaker is Dr. Sara Hurvitz of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, with additional presentations by other area cancer specialists.
RSVP: Visit LutheranHealth.net to RSVP for the free presentation.