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The UPMC Cancer Centers network has been recognized as a national leader for several years, earning a reputation for excellence through a vast range of services and a quality of care that is unmatched in Western Pennsylvania.
Cancer patients of all kinds are in good hands when they come here, reaping the collective expertise that comes from several hundred health care professionals and research scientists, 200 affiliated oncologists and 35 satellite centers, making up one of the largest and most extensive cancer-care networks in the country.
With the Hillman Cancer Center as the flagship facility and the home of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, patients are assured of getting the most current and effective advances in prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment. And with so many medical and academic resources available, the latest and greatest developments never are far away.
The Mesothelioma Specialty Care program was added in 2011, joining the growing list of common and rare cancers covered under the UPMC umbrella. This and other specialized programs at UPMC give each patient a comprehensive, yet individualized care package with a multidisciplinary approach.
The work has earned the elite Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute for UPMC. Only the nation’s best cancer centers with scientific leadership, vast resources and extensive clinical research receive this designation. The model has been so effective that UPMC Cancer Centers also have expanded internationally, going into Dublin and Waterford, Ireland.
UPMC is a nonprofit health care provider. As a nonprofit, all the money it makes is reinvested back into the health care services it provides, including the Mesothelioma Specialty Care program.
The Mesothelioma Specialty Care program employs a multimodality treatment approach, incorporating combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These therapies also include a form of heated chemotherapy that is used in conjunction with a pleurectomy (removal of the chest lining).
Among the team’s experts are surgical oncologists who specialize in treating different types of mesothelioma. David L. Bartlett, M.D., and James F. Pingpank, M.D., are the peritoneal specialists who treat the cancer with surgery and chemotherapy.
The surgeons treating pleural mesothelioma within the specialty center include Neil Christie, M.D., who specializes in minimally-invasive thoracic surgery; and Matthew Schuchert, M.D., who specializes in radiofrequency ablation, CyberKnife and all facets of thoracic surgical oncology.
In treating pleural mesothelioma, Christie and Schuchert are joined by James Luketich, M.D., chairman of the Cardiothoracic Surgery department.
This specialized program treats the two most common types of mesothelioma, pleural and peritoneal, which affect the linings of the lung and abdomen, respectively.
Accurate diagnostic measures set the foundation for treatment at UPMC. A variety of cutting-edge imaging scans and biopsy tests are used to determine the cancer’s stage and cell type, which help guide treatment decisions.
Comprehensive treatment planning and surgical services form the cornerstone of care at UPMC. A team of doctors specializing in surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, oncology, pain management and palliative care work together to devise a customized treatment and health-care plan for each patient.
New patients are guided by a UPMC coordinator, who will schedule appointments and serve as liaison for the patient and treatment team.
The Lung and Esophageal Cancer Treatment Program, which has received much acclaim, is comprised of internationally renowned thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists and pathologists.
The success of the program is due to the hard work and experience of its doctors and researchers like Schuchert, assistant professor of surgery for the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and an authority in thoracic surgical oncology and research. This team utilizes an interdisciplinary and coordinated approach, whether treating mesothelioma or non-small and small cell lung cancers.
Within the UPMC Cancer Centers community, research is a constant, and clinical trials are an essential part of improved diagnosis and treatment. The centers have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant, which focuses on head and neck, lung, and skin cancers. These facilities focus on four target research areas of molecular and medical oncology, including:
In 2006, the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank was added under the Cancer Centers umbrella, making it easier for researchers everywhere to aid in the fight against the cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Data and specimens from more than 1,200 cases at four different medical centers are available for review, hoping to spark new ideas from many different angles. The plans for expanding the bank already have begun.
As an NCI-designated cancer center, UPMC participates in many government-funded clinical trials. Sometimes these trials involve people with mesothelioma cancer.
Currently, UPMC is participating in one mesothelioma clinical trial involving chemotherapy with pemetrexed, also known as Alimta. The trial is evaluating the potential benefit of administering pemetrexed every 21 days after first-line chemotherapy as a means to control or prevent tumor growth and spreading. The study began in April 2010 and is estimated to wrap up in 2020.
Founded in 1985, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute was the youngest cancer center ever to receive the NCI’s elite award, proving its excellence in patient care, education, basic science, clinical research and cancer prevention.
Today, UPMC offers one of the largest integrated community networks of cancer physicians and health care specialists in the nation. The facilities’ recruiting success has resulted in increased government funding. In 2010, the UPCI received nearly $170 million. Ranked among the country’s top-tier cancer institutes, the UPMC is continually recognized by U.S. News & World Report as having one of the nation’s best cancer programs.
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