Dr. Samir Khleif became director of the Augusta University Cancer Center in 2012. Khleif is determined to raise the level of care for state residents and out-of-state patients.
Augusta recruited Khleif from the National Cancer Institute, where he served as the chief of the institute’s vaccine section.
“Cancer care is changing rapidly,” Khleif told Asbestos.com. “We not only want to be part of that, but we want to be a driving force behind it.”
Already a national leader in immunotherapy research, a growing area of interest because it holds the key to future advancements in cancer treatment, Augusta University Cancer Center is building a unique collaboration between research and clinical facilities.
The center, formerly known as the Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, also recently opened its first mesothelioma-specific clinical trial at its Augusta, Georgia campus.
Under Khleif’s leadership, Augusta soon expects to earn a Comprehensive Cancer Center-designation, which is the gold standard in health care, from the National Cancer Institute. Currently, the only center with that distinction in Georgia is the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.
The Augusta University Cancer Center is an ultra-modern facility with a state-of-the-art approach to multidisciplinary cancer care and groundbreaking research. Currently, its researchers are participating in more than 90 different ongoing clinical trials, providing patients with the latest innovative therapies, while attracting researchers, physicians and scientists from around the country.
The center is in the midst of the first clinical trials that investigate specific immunotherapy treatments that improve survival rates for advanced pancreatic and prostate cancers. It also is using drug therapies, involving molecular-targeted agents (MTAs), for lymphoma and leukemia.
Immunotherapy involves using the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells, in contrast to the toxic chemotherapy agents that produce serious side effects. Augusta University Cancer Center is at the forefront of that research.
A new 57,000-square-foot, outpatient cancer clinic opened in 2010, attracting patients from Georgia, South Carolina and the southeast United States. It includes 30 exam rooms and 30 infusion stations that offer the utmost privacy, and ability to visit with other patients and families.
A five-story, $54 million cancer research facility opened in 2006. It has laboratories and administrative offices. It is home to 35 Augusta research faculty and 175 associated personnel. The open floor plan of the labs is designed to encourage collaboration among the different disciplines.
The radiation therapy center is a regional, free-standing facility close to the cancer clinic and the cancer research facility. The radiation oncology team includes physicians with decades of experience caring for cancer patients. There are medical physicists, dosimetrists, radiation therapists and a nursing support staff.
A new comprehensive cancer center building will be constructed soon with the $45 million in bond funding awarded to Augusta Cancer Center in 2014. Georgia governor Nathan Deal also doubled the budgetary support for cancer research at Augusta to $10 million in 2014.
The multidisciplinary care team at the cancer center includes medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and psychologists.
The thoracic oncology team treats patients with personalized care for every type and stage of cancer in the chest, including lung and mesothelioma cancers.
Each patient at the cancer center is assigned a nurse navigator who will simplify the process and coordinate appointments with the entire health care team within the same day and in the same location.
The diagnostic approach to thoracic malignancies includes PET scans, high resolution CT scans, endobronchial and esophageal ultrasound, advanced bronchoscopic imaging and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
Treatment options may include proton therapy with the only pencil-beam scanning capability in the U.S. There is a wide range of radiation therapies, immunotherapy, less-invasive surgical options and clinical trials that include the newest chemotherapy agents being tested.
The more than 90 clinical trials at Augusta University Cancer Center are in different phases that involve immunotherapy for lung, brain, breast, liver, pancreas, head and neck cancers.
The mesothelioma trial for peritoneal and pleural patients is exploring the use of tremelimumab, a drug that has shown an ability to stimulate a patient’s own immune system, allowing it to kill tumor cells without harming healthy ones.
The Augusta University Cancer Center is one of more than 100 centers around the world participating in that clinical trial.
Disclaimer: Augusta University Cancer Center has no professional affiliation with Asbestos.com.
Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers. Read More