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Dr. Jessica Donington is a skilled thoracic surgeon with a special interest in advancing the medical community’s understanding of lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition to treating patients, she is also actively involved in clinical research aiming to improve the current standards of early detection and treatment for these cancers.
Since 2007, Dr. Donington has served as an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at NYU School of Medicine. She is also the director of the NYU Thoracic Oncology Translational Laboratory at Bellevue Hospital.
Upon joining the NYU School of Medicine, Dr. Donington was reunited with her long-time research mentor, Dr. Harvey Pass, a highly acclaimed thoracic surgeon with more than two decades of experience studying and treating mesothelioma.
Dr. Donington and Dr. Pass have collaborated on numerous mesothelioma studies, including investigations of new treatments like gene therapy and novel biomarkers that could help doctors diagnose patients in earlier stages of the disease, when treatment options are most promising.
Fast Fact: Dr. Donington is trilingual. She speaks Greek, Spanish and English.
In 1992, Dr. Donington earned a medical degree from Rush Medical College at Rush University in Chicago. Five years earlier, she completed undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, which conferred upon her a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
Dr. Donington completed her general surgery training at Georgetown University before training in cardiothoracic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. After a brief stint at Stanford University as a thoracic surgeon, she joined the faculty of NYU.
As an independent investigator, Dr. Donington has dedicated much of her research efforts to osteopontin, a cancer-related protein that plays an important role in the progression of non-small cell lung cancer. In 2010, she bested more than a dozen other international applicants and won a two-year, $250,000 research grant from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) and the Lung Cancer Foundation of America (LCFA).
Dr. Donington believes grassroots organizations like the LCFA can change the course of lung cancer much like similar organizations have done for breast cancer. “First they raised awareness and removed stigma,” she says. “Then they raised money to support research, which dramatically improved survival. The same can and should happen in lung cancer.”
With the help of the grant, Dr. Donington initiated the first study to confirm osteopontin’s potential to diagnose lung cancer earlier than currently available methods. While she has yet to uncover exactly how the protein boosts the growth and spread of lung cancer tumors, her research revealed that measuring osteopontin levels over time can help doctors accurately distinguish early-stage lung cancer from noncancerous growths. Dr. Donington continues to explore the possible benefits of this early but promising research.
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