Ravi Salgia, M.D., isn’t content to simply treat cancer. He wants to invent better cancer medicines, ones that don’t make patients sicker or cause their hair to fall out. And finding a cure wouldn’t be too shabby either.
Luckily Salgia, a medical oncologist – the type of doctor who treats patient tumors with drugs – gets to be both healer and innovator at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), a pre-eminent lung cancer center and pioneer in mesothelioma treatment.
‘If you want to change the world, be that change.’ That’s (a quote) by Mahatma Gandhi, and I think it is what we have designed here at the University of Chicago.
As part of UCMC’s Mesothelioma Team and head of both its Chest Oncology Department and Thoracic Oncology Research Program, Salgia is involved in research identifying the biological components of individual cancer cells known as bio-markers that are particularly vulnerable to medicines. These bio-markers could be used someday to help doctors predict who is likely to get cancer or experience a recurrence after treatment.
His research team has also discovered that certain proteins make cancer drugs more potent and learned that the enzyme tyrosine kinase, which turns many cell functions on and off, is an important key to lung cancer treatment.
Fast Fact: Dr. Salgia is fluent in Hindi and Spanish.
Salgia is able to conduct his research thanks to the medical center’s prestigious designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 40 in the nation. As a result, since 1973, UCMC has received continuous NCI funding for cancer research. Of the 363 clinical trials ongoing today, eight concern mesothelioma.
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In addition, UCMC has been pioneering mesothelioma treatment for 20 years with a team of chemotherapy and radiation experts, as well as nurses, scientists and imaging specialists.
Salgia said in his lecture that the medical center’s research focus benefits patients in a personal way. Thanks to its research, patients often are spared many side-effects of cancer treatment. For example, years ago UCMC studied the chemotherapy drug pemetrexed as a new treatment for mesothelioma that didn’t cause hair loss, he said. Today it is now being tested as a lung cancer treatment.
“It was also figured out here, actually very intelligently, that you needed to supplement our patients with vitamins, like B-12 as well as folic acid, to have the maximal effect of the chemotherapy and have the minimal effect of the toxicity from this therapy itself.”
Both a board-certified medical oncologist and internist, Salgia has been practicing medicine since 1987.
Salgia has written over 160 scholarly articles, nine of which discuss mesothelioma. The most recent, which explains the endothelial growth factor receptor in malignant pleural mesothelioma, was published in 2011 in Journal of Carcinogenesis.
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