Mesothelioma patients from Brooklyn won’t need to travel far from home anymore to receive specialized care for this rare and aggressive cancer.
The Brooklyn Mesothelioma Center has opened.
Maimonides Medical Center is the top cancer facility in Brooklyn. It has been treating mesothelioma patients for many years, but the arrival of thoracic surgeon Dr. Ory Wiesel has taken its program to another level.
“We can provide the care now that these patients, before, maybe went elsewhere to find,” Wiesel told Asbestos.com. “We’re creating a dedicated mesothelioma program, with the expertise necessary, right close to home.”
In the past, patients in Brooklyn seeking a mesothelioma specialty center traveled to Manhattan. It was a difficult commute away from home.
“Now we can keep these patients closer to home, nearer their family, their support system, their family physician, where they are more comfortable,” Wiesel said. “The proximity becomes a real benefit for everyone.”
Building New Program from Experience
Wiesel brings to Maimonides the experience and expertise from his specialty training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. There he worked alongside Dr. Raphael Bueno, director of the International Mesothelioma Program.
It is the program originally built by mesothelioma treatment pioneer Dr. David Sugarbaker, who died earlier this year.
“Similar to the Brigham philosophy, at Maimonides we believe in a total-team, dedicated approach to treatment, where the patient and his family are in the center,” Wiesel said. “Treatment goes well beyond surgical technique. It’s about an experienced team dedicated to providing the best possible care, in every way.”
Wiesel uses a football analogy to describe the program Maimonides is building in Brooklyn. The thoracic surgeon, he believes, is only one member of a team that is needed to win.
“It’s not just the quarterback, although he often gets a lot of the credit,” he said. “It’s the same in treating a difficult disease like this. It takes the whole team. That’s what we’re building here.”
A Talented Team at Maimonides
The Brooklyn Mesothelioma Center is led by a thoracic surgery group that includes director of Thoracic Surgery Dr. Jason Shaw, Dr. Igor Brichkov and Wiesel.
It also includes the expertise of Medical Oncology division chief Dr. Kevin Becker as well as radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses and social workers, all working with the same mesothelioma patients.
“This is such a challenging disease to treat, but there is hope for patients today as progress is being made,” Wiesel said. “Physicians are trying to extend survival times. Immunotherapy, clinical trials, all are going to be a factor. Patients should have options, and we can provide them.”
Patients Can Stay Close to Home
At Brigham and Women’s, patients come from across the country seeking specialty care. Wiesel saw the problems that arose for patients far from home with mesothelioma.
“There is a comfort zone you lose when you are not close to home, to the friends and family nearby, the children and grandchildren. Those kind of things, at the end of the day, are important,” he said. “You can avoid a lot of problems being closer to home.”
Although mesothelioma is very rare, Maimonides treated close to a dozen patients with mesothelioma last year even before the mesothelioma program was announced.
9/11 Aftermath Still Looming
Brooklyn’s population is close to three million people. The city has seen a rise in various lung diseases in the 17 years since the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.
When the towers collapsed, they created a toxic cloud of pulverized concrete, glass and asbestos fibers that contaminated the area for weeks. The attack exposed hundreds of thousands of people to dangerous carcinogens and future health issues.
Given the long latency of mesothelioma, Wiesel is worried about a future surge in cases throughout Brooklyn.
“Mesothelioma patients now will have a centralized location where they can receive the best possible care – without going far from home,” he said. “Maimonides is a hospital that, together with the family physicians, knows how to care for the diverse patients of Brooklyn in their own language, in their own communities. We’re here to provide everything they need.”