How new developments are helping in the fight against cancer Featured

8:02pm EDT March 31, 2013
Philip DiSaia, M.D., Medical Director, Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center Philip DiSaia, M.D., Medical Director, Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center

This year, nearly 1.7 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed. Thanks to significant medical advances, prevention and healthier lifestyles, survival rates continue to improve.

Smart Business turned to Philip DiSaia, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial and world leader and researcher in gynecologic oncology, and Amanda Termuhlen, M.D., medical director, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, the region’s renowned pediatric cancer facility.

Does prevention really work?

A substantial proportion of cancers can be prevented. Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and plenty of exercise help reduce risks. Regular screening tests that allow detection and removal of precancerous growths can help prevent many cancers. Pap smears help detect cervical cancer, colonoscopies can identify colon cancer, PSAs may determine the likelihood and treatment of prostate cancer, and breast self-exams and mammograms reduce mortality for breast cancer.

What are some advances available locally?

Todd Cancer Institute and Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center are dedicated to early diagnosis, research, treatment and education of patients with cancer or serious blood disorders. At interdisciplinary treatment planning conferences, specialists review new and difficult cases, developing treatment plans suited to patient needs. Our world-renowned Leavey Radiation Oncology Center achieves break-through results with the most advanced technologies and therapies. Patients can access more than 100 cancer research protocols.

At the forefront of adult cancer management are our gynecologic, thoracic, breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, radiation oncology, genetic counseling and robotic surgery. We were one of the first centers to make individualized therapy and targeted treatment a clinical reality.

Is there progress for childhood cancers?

Prior to the 1970s, only half of children with cancer survived beyond five years following diagnosis. Today that number is 80 percent, thanks to better cancer drugs, treatment, research and access to clinical trials. Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center supports advanced diagnostic tools and treatments with comprehensive psychosocial services and a multi-disciplinary care team that follows every patient from admission through their hospital stay and follow-up in outpatient settings. New research efforts offers patients access to leading therapies.

What can be expected in the future?

Vaccines like those to prevent cervical cancer may be effective in other cancers. Emerging treatment technologies, techniques and drug discoveries more accurately treat cancer, and with fewer side effects. Myriad cancer therapies and treatment in varying stages of development continue to unveil more about cancer cell biology and new treatments.

New pharmaceuticals may better kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply. There is hope therapeutic vaccines will help activate a patient’s immune system. Gene sequencing seeking specific DNA mutations with different types of cancers may lead to new treatments. Physicians are researching family history and DNA to better predict cancer risk. Screenings for higher risk patients can help diagnose cancer at earlier stages. Doctors are customizing treatments and choosing the most effective outcomes.

How can businesses help?

Encourage employees to access cancer screenings. Offer wellness, nutrition and exercise programs. Partner with hospitals for on-site education. Memorialcare.org provides online risk assessments, tools and information on prevention, screenings, diagnosis and treatments.

MemorialCare Health System, a not-for profit, integrated delivery system, includes six top hospitals — Long Beach Memorial, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial, and Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills and San Clemente; medical groups — MemorialCare Medical Group and Memorial Prompt Care; the Independent Practice Association (IPA) Greater Newport Physicians; retail health; ambulatory surgery centers; and numerous outpatient facilities across the Southland.

Philip DiSaia, M.D., is medical director at MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Memorial.

Amanda Termuhlen, M.D, is medical director at Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center, Miller Children’s Hospital.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by MemorialCare Health System