There is a common theme to Christie’s work: He keeps looking for better, more effective ways to help his patients, especially those who need it most.
Whether it’s the treatment of pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, esophageal cancer or thymomas, Christie has been part of the research efforts at the center that effectively have moved surgery toward the more minimally-invasive kind, which come with fewer complications, making it more readily available for everyone.
Christie is one of four thoracic surgical oncologists at Pittsburgh’s Mesothelioma Specialty Care Center, where a multi-disciplinary approach and state-of-the-art therapy is most often prescribed. He is joined by specialists Matthew Schuchert, M.D.; Rodney Landreneau, M.D.; and James D. Luketich, M.D.
Minimally Invasive Approach
Christie has authored and co-authored several papers on the surgical complications that result from pleural effusions, which often accompany a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In addition to his role as a mesothelioma surgeon, Christie is the director of the Lung Imaging Fluorescence Endoscope (LIFE) Program, which is a part of the Early Lung Cancer Detection Program at the Medical Center.
In recent years, Christie has studied and helped refine stereotactic radiosurgery – as opposed to the standard surgical resection – for patients with Stage I non-small lung cancer.
He has worked on minimally-invasive esophagectomies, which dramatically reduce recovery time without sacrificing results, instead of the traditional open methods. And he has pushed for the video-assisted, minimally-invasive approach to thymectomies, instead of the traditional, open resection.
At the American Association for Thoracic Surgery Convention, he extolled the virtues of stereotactic radiosurgery as a lung-sparing, viable option for Stage I lung cancer. He pointed to older, less-healthy patients who might not be good candidates for the more traditional lobectomy, which removes major portions of the lung.
Despite its name, stereotactic radiosurgery is not a surgical procedure, but a form of radiation therapy that better targets the cancerous area with high-power x-rays.
The long-term survival analysis of medically inoperable patients who are being treated with stereotactic radiosurgery will likely identify a subset who are survival-comparable to (those who have) surgery,” he said. “My expectation is that in the future, there will be a group that can be treated without surgery.”
Christie was also part of a University of Pittsburgh study published in the Annals of Surgery that detailed the comparison of minimally invasive esophagectomy to the traditional open method. The conclusion was eye-opening.
“MIE offers results as good as or better than open operation in our center…We observed a lower mortality rate (1.4 percent) and shorter hospital stay (seven days) than most open series.”Dr. Christie
He was part of another study published in 2011 comparing surgical techniques for early-stage thymoma, detailing the advantages of the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgical (VATS) approach. The conclusion was that the oncologic outcomes were comparable, while the hospital stays were considerably shorter with VATS.