Pancreatic cancer expert: ‘Specialization is the secret sauce of MD Anderson’

Because I treat patients in MD Anderson’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Center and I have a special interest in pancreatic cancer, I often get asked by other doctors, “How can you focus on just one disease?” But working with one particular type of cancer day in and day out is what allows us to understand it better and notice patterns beyond what books can illustrate. It’s also what makes us unique. So I believe that specialization is the “secret sauce” of MD Anderson. Advances in research mean more personalized treatment When I first joined MD Anderson 16 years ago, a pancreatic cancer diagnosis was considered a death sentence. But research has made several advances since then.    For one thing, we can stage pancreatic cancer more accurately now, which helps us determine which patients would benefit the most from surgery, as well as the best timing of that surgery: before or after chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. We also have a number of clinical trials to help us determine if certain new treatment options and sequencing regimens are effective. And we continue to work on identifying predictive markers that can help us determine the appropriateness and timing of surgery. Why it’s important to start conversations early It’s not easy to cure pancreatic cancer with surgery only, though, so it’s very important to start conversations early with patients about possible treatments.   Sometimes, patients are in a tremendous rush to hurry up and “get rid of the cancer,” but acting in haste can do more harm than good. So, even if someone comes to us for a second opinion, we’re going to go...