Cancer Center Special Report
Researchers Bring Science to the Bedside
Brain CancerSignificant advances in imaging technology have tremendously increased physicians’ understanding of brain cancer. Integrating that information to create highly personalized treatment plans has proven more difficult. At Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, a dedicated team of researchers is working on translating new technologies to clinical practice.
“Each of these physiological and functional imaging tools has potential, but by themselves, they’re not nearly as powerful as if you can bring them all together and integrate the data,” John Ulmer, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neuro-radiologist explains. “We’re taking these new technologies, many of which were invented at the Medical College of Wisconsin or modified significantly at Froedtert, and translating them to clinical care.”
Ulmer and his team, including Hendrikus Krouwer, MD, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin neuro-oncologist, have developed software that creates an interactive interface for physicians. “We’re talking about multimodality image-guided therapy,” Ulmer adds. “It’s a way to customize therapies on a per-patient basis.”
Colon CancerNew research is giving colon cancer patients more options. “Through clinical trials, new drugs are already extending survival rates,” says Paul Ritch, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin medical oncologist. “For instance, we currently combine chemotherapy with drugs that interfere with tumor blood vessels and drugs that target growth receptors on tumor cells. We use this approach for patients who have metastatic disease, as well as in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation. There are many exciting investigational agents on the horizon. We are considering two clinical trials: one will use chemo with a combination of new drugs that interfere with tumor blood vessels; the other will study a drug that stimulates tumor cell death.”
Gynecologic CancersSelect patients with endometrial cancer can now choose laparoscopic surgery at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. The Medical College of Wisconsin participated in a large clinical trial comparing laparoscopic surgery and open abdominal surgery for the treatment of endometrial cancer. “The results indicated laparoscopic treatment significantly shortens recovery time,” Janet Osborne, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin gynecologic oncologist says. “Patients have less pain, improved cosmetic outcomes and fewer complications.”
Dr. Osborne and her team, including gynecologic oncologists David Boruta, MD, and Denise Uyar, MD, are also studying the problem of lower extremity lymphedema in patients who have undergone gynecologic surgery. While few studies have focused on this problem, Medical College of Wisconsin researchers are objectively documenting post-surgery lymphedema and its affect on patients’ quality of life.
Lung CancerLung cancer is particularly challenging to treat, because tumors and healthy lung tissue move with each breath, making it difficult to precisely localize treatment. At Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, radiation oncologists are actively investigating new gating technology as a way of compensating for respiration. Researchers hope to improve clinical outcomes by turning radiation on and off during different phases of respiration. Their research is significant because “determining lung volumes and keeping radiation fields smaller will allow us to get higher doses of radiation to the tumor and increase our chances of curing the cancer,” Elizabeth Gore, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologist, says. Other clinical studies are exploring qigong, a Chinese form of meditation that trains patients to control their respiratory rate, and stereotactic radiation, a possible treatment alternative for patients unable to tolerate surgery.
Prostate CancerAdvanced prostate cancer often spreads to the bone, causing significant pain and possible fractures. Thanks to clinical trials, patients at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin are now given medication to prevent these side effects, William See, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin urologist and chairman of Urology says. One study is comparing a drug that could be administered orally to prevent bone-related side effects to the current standard monthly IV infusion, testing whether it will prove as effective — and easier — for patients. Trials recently showed chemotherapy is effective in prolonging life when prostate cancer no longer responds to hormone therapy. Medical College of Wisconsin researchers are also studying ways to prevent prostate cancer through the national SELECT trial, examining the effectiveness of selenium and vitamin E.
Source: Cancer Center Special Report 2005/06