UK Markey Cancer Center and the Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness Network will host the 2017 Neuroendocrine Cancer Patient Conference on Saturday, April 22.

Markey to host major conference on neuroendocrine cancer

For the 120,000 patients in the U.S. already living with neuroendocrine cancer, the sudden flushing or recurring stomach aches aren’t symptoms of common ailments. Sometimes they are indications of the rarely-understood neuroendocrine cancer. The UK Markey Cancer Center, in conjunction with the Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness Network (NCAN), will host the 2017 Neuroendocrine Cancer Patient Conference on Saturday, April 22, in order to provide support and information for those dealing with this disease.

Centered around educating neuroendocrine cancer patients, family members and caretakers, the conference features presentations on recently published information by Markey specialists Dr. Lowell Anthony, Dr. Riham El Khouli and Dr. Aman Chauhan, as well as nationally known neuroendocrine expert Dr. Larry Kvols.

“Because neuroendocrine cancers are relatively rare, many cases of neuroendocrine cancer are misdiagnosed or incorrectly treated,” Anthony said. “It’s our goal to help patients across the country dealing with this disease. This conference is designed specifically for them, with useful information they can use to be an advocate for their own healthcare.”

Specific points of discussion will include the recently FDA-approved drug telotristat ethyl (Xermelo) along with other emerging therapeutics options for managing neuroendorcine tumors and cardinomas. Afternoon sessions include personal presentations from patients on their experiences with the disease, as well as a support group session.

For NCAN president Maryann Wahmann, the conference also provides an opportunity to show patients dealing with neuroendocrine cancers that they’re not alone in their battle.

“Doctors are taught, ‘when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras,’ ” said Wahmann. “But more than 12,000 times a year in the U.S., the diagnosis proves that those hooves belong to a zebra.”

The conference runs 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on April 22 at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa in Lexington, Ky. To purchase tickets, visit the NCAN registration page.


Next steps:

  • Thanks to our world-class treatment, research and providers, the UK Markey Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated center in Kentucky.
  • In his Making the Rounds interview, Dr. Anthony told us that working at Markey is incredibly rewarding due to its multidisciplinary approach and patient care. Read the full interview.

A routine checkup could save your life – just ask Claudia Hall

While battling a cold and trying to prepare for her daughter’s college graduation party the next day, Claudia Hall considered skipping her annual checkup with her gynecologist in May 2014. The Lexington resident figured she would simply postpone the appointment a week or two. But after finding out the next best appointment time for her was nearly three months away, she decided to go ahead with the checkup.

“I said, ‘No, I don’t want to let that go that long,'” Hall said. “And I tell you that because it saved my life.”

At the appointment with UK HealthCare OB-GYN Dr. Wendy Jackson, Hall underwent the usual tests and checks, including a digital rectal exam, generally performed on female patients over the age of 40. The exam revealed some troubling news: a large mass in Hall’s rectum.

‘A whirlwind’

Jackson made an appointment for Hall to see UK Markey Cancer Center colorectal surgeon Dr. Sandra Beck the following week. Despite the news, Hall said her weekend continued as planned.

“We went on with my daughter’s graduation – that’s something she can’t do over,” she said. “But I was in Markey that next Tuesday, and from then on it was sort of a whirlwind.”

After several rounds of testing, Hall had a diagnosis: squamous cell carcinoma. The news came as a shock to the healthy, fit mother of two who had no family history of colorectal cancer and had received a clean colonoscopy just three years before.

“I was pretty much asymptomatic,” Hall said. “The only problem I had was sort of a pain on the right side of my hip.”

At Markey, Hall first underwent one chemotherapy infusion, a round of oral chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments over the course of six weeks, all in an effort to reduce or eliminate her tumor prior to surgery.

Team of experts works together

The tumor’s location made it tricky to determine whether its point of origin was the colon or cervix, but it was fortunate that the tumor had not spread elsewhere in her body, Hall said. However, the disease had affected such a large area of her gastrointestinal tract that much of that tract couldn’t be salvaged. After she had recovered from radiation, Hall was scheduled for a complex combined surgery to remove all the areas where the tumor had been, including the entire rectum, anus and the back of the vaginal wall. Beck, along with Markey gynecologic oncologist Dr. Rachel Miller removed the diseased areas, while UK plastic surgeon Dr. James Liau reconstructed the vaginal wall using skin and muscle from her abdominal wall.

“This surgery is not very common, but we often do combined procedures for complicated tumors like this at UK,” Beck said. “It’s great for us to have all the experts in these fields to be able to provide this level of care for our patients.”

As a result of her extensive treatment, Hall is now in remission and has been cancer-free for more than two years. The surgery has left her with one major side effect, though: a permanent colostomy, which is an opening in the body (known as a stoma) that connects the colon to the surface of the abdomen.

Dealing with such a major alteration to the body can be hard for many patients, but Hall is eternally optimistic – and realistic – about her lifelong need for the device.

“It’s been life-changing,” she said. “But I’m blessed. I’m grateful for it, because without it, I can’t live.”

Working to help others

And although the bubbly, energetic Hall describes herself as a “talker,” she says she initially didn’t share many details of her battle with cancer.

“Part of it could have been the type of cancer, because you know not everybody wants to hear it,” Hall said. “I didn’t share it with many people, just my family and a few close friends.”

In 2015, Hall joined Markey’s Patient Advisory Group, a committee of cancer survivors who meet once a month to discuss issues and offer ideas on various facets of the patient experience at Markey. Meeting other survivors and hearing their stories inspired her to be more open about her personal ordeal.

“I thought I might be able to help somebody with my story,” she said. “And I started talking about it just a little bit more here and there.”

Through her connection with the advisory group, Hall was one of a small group of patients to attend Markey’s Cancer Moonshot Summit last summer, held in conjunction with the national Summit hosted in Washington, D.C. More than 100 people attended the summit, including cancer physicians, researchers, staff, patients, caregivers, philanthropists and others who play a role in cancer care. As an attendee, Hall worked with a team of healthcare staff to discuss barriers to cancer research and care, creating a list of specific problems and suggested solutions that were sent directly to the White House for consideration.

She’s also become passionate about educating others about another procedure that has made life with the stoma a little easier – a process called irrigation, which allows the patient to regulate their bowel movements to a schedule, reducing the need for the actual colostomy bag. Now that she’s familiar with the process, she says she sometimes gets called in by her doctors to counsel other patients dealing with similar issues. Her willingness to accept the changes to her body and move forward makes her an inspiration to others, Beck said.

“No one wants to have their body altered to fight cancer,” Beck said. “But she has really taken ownership of her health and embraced the ‘new Claudia.’ She has remained positive and has always worked with us as part of her team.”

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At UK HealthCare, you’re a part of a team

The “team” aspect of Hall’s care is important ­– in total, six different specialists and their respective staffs cared for Hall throughout her treatment. From Jackson’s initial discovery and referral from Hall’s annual exam, to the chemo prescribed by Markey medical oncologist Dr. Philip DeSimone and the radiation schedule given by radiation oncologist Dr. William St. Clair, to the combined surgeries performed by Beck, Miller and Liau, Hall experienced a range of care that only the most advanced medical centers in the country can provide. As the “lead” on her care, Hall says Beck gave her a pep talk on the importance of being part of the team before treatment began.

“Initially when I went to see her – I’ll never forget this – she said, ‘We are a team here,'” Hall said. “‘I’m your coach and you’re my quarterback.’ And we really are a team at UK.”

These days, life has largely returned to normal for Hall, who still maintains an active lifestyle. She and her husband regularly boat on Lake Barkley, and she enjoys cooking, exercising and watching after her “grand-dog,” Kona. She stresses the importance of being proactive in your own healthcare, noting that knowing about any potential health risks is far better than not knowing.

“I was doing everything right, and it just happens sometimes,” she said. “But I’m very thankful I didn’t skip that appointment that day, because I’ve often wondered what would’ve happened if I’d waited.”


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DanceBlue has always been "For The Kids." "For The Kids" may seem like three simple words, but for the DanceBlue community, those words mean everything.

DanceBlue celebrates more than a decade of dancing ‘for the kids’

DanceBlue celebrated its 12th-annual 24-hour dance marathon this past weekend, raising nearly $1.8 million “for the kids.” The group’s slogan is just three simple words, but for the DanceBlue community, “for the kids” means everything.

DanceBlue is UK’s largest student-run philanthropy and has raised more than $11.5 million since 2006 in support of cancer patients, their families and cancer research.

Thanks to 12 years of DanceBlue’s fundraising, UK opened the new, state-of-the-art DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic earlier this month. In addition to fundraising, DanceBlue students also volunteer about 1,000 hours in the clinic each year, bringing smiles and laughter to patients and families.

“The students have a real commitment to our patients,” said Dr. Lars Wagner, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. “They build relationships, then they work hard to raise funds to help support these very kids that they’re getting to know and care for.”

Rachel O’Farrell, a social worker in the DanceBlue Clinic, agreed and said the support patients and their families get from DanceBlue students is invaluable in their treatment journey.

“I think it’s huge to see what it means to patients and families to know that there’s a whole community standing behind them when they’re going through such a difficult experience,” O’Farrell said. “Many of our families feel very lonely, but when you know that there are 900 to 1,000 students dancing and standing for 24 hours to encourage and support your family  I think that holds a lot of meaning.”

Watch the video below to learn more about DanceBlue’s mission and how the group has helped improve cancer care for kids across the Commonwealth.


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This year's DanceBlue event raised nearly $2 million in support of pediatric cancer, with part of those funds going toward the new DanceBlue Clinic.

DanceBlue raises nearly $1.8 million for pediatric cancer patients

Nearly 1,000 UK students spent 24 hours on their feet this weekend, dancing as part of the UK DanceBlue Marathon. It was the culmination and celebration of a yearlong fundraising effort that raised almost $1.8 million for pediatric cancer patients and their families.

DanceBlue the largest student-run philanthropy organization at UK  celebrates its yearly fundraising efforts at the DanceBlue Marathon, an all-day, no-sitting, no-sleeping event that honors those affected by childhood cancer. This year’s celebration took place on Feb. 25 and 26 and included a family talent show featuring children from the clinic and an emotional memorial hour to remember those who lost their battle with cancer.

Since it began in 2006, DanceBlue has raised more than $11.5 million for the Golden Matrix Fund and the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic, which is named in honor of the group. DanceBlue’s fundraising efforts over the last several years helped support the renovation of the new DanceBlue Clinic, which opened in early February.

“For the last 365 days, students at the University of Kentucky have been on a mission to fight pediatric cancer,” said Richie Simpson, the overall chair of DanceBlue. “They have come together to be a part of something so much greater than any one individual, and for the last 24 hours they have literally taken a stand against cancer. They refused to accept the realities of cancer, and they showed the families in the DanceBlue Clinic they are not alone and will never be alone as they face some of the toughest circumstances life can throw at you. It has been an honor to stand alongside students at the university who are so committed to making a difference and changing the world.”


Next steps:

Even as a child, Rachel Miller knew she wanted to be a doctor

Making the RoundsWe’re joined by Dr. Rachel Miller for our latest edition of Making the Rounds. Dr. Miller is a gynecologic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center who specializes in ovarian cancer screening and treatment. She’s also the co-director of Markey’s new Molecular Tumor Board, a powerful tool in the fight against cancer.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

I think I knew in elementary school. I was very interested in doctoring from an early age. My mom actually saved my Fisher-Price doctor kit and cleaned it up and gave it to my son. So it is well-worn. I did a lot of physical exams when I was between the ages of 4 and 6, I think.

I was a chemistry major, and I thought I might spend some time in the lab. And I was interested in pharmacy, too. So it’s been a long-standing desire. [The challenge] was just trying to figure out what aspect of healthcare and medicine and interaction with people would work best.

What’s your favorite food?

Spaghetti and meatballs. It’s comfort food, and actually, it’s one of the first dishes that my husband made for me when we were dating. It was a birthday dish.

How would your friends describe you?

I think they’d describe me as energetic, active. Kind of crazy in that I may have a little higher work-to-off-time ratio than most of my friends, but we make the most of our time together.

Describe your ideal weekend.

I’d get out of work at a reasonable time on Friday and probably have some Mexican or Indian food or sushi for dinner – some sort of special treat for Friday night. And then on Saturday, I’d wake up – I have a 3 1/2-year-old – so I’d wake up with him in a really good mood and we’d play and have a nice, quiet breakfast. I’d go out for a run, and then we’d have an afternoon of maybe swimming in the summertime or the YMCA in the wintertime. We’d get a babysitter at 6 p.m., and I’d have an evening with my husband. Really, it’d be a quiet weekend at home. I feel like more and more we treasure the downtime and the routine family time at home.

What’s your favorite part about being a mom?

There are so many great parts about it. I think it’s just that my son challenges me in ways that I didn’t realize a 3 1/2-year-old could challenge me. I thought I had a hard job until I became a mom, and I realized that is so much more difficult at times. I just enjoy watching him grow and seeing how every day is just loaded with new experiences for him and how he approaches those experiences, watching him learn language, hearing him laugh – just the day-to-day interactions.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Miller below, where she describes the types of patients she sees at Markey and talks about why she enjoys practicing medicine in Kentucky.


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The new $1.6 million DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital (KCH) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic transports families to a beachside getaway.

DanceBlue celebrates opening of new pediatric cancer clinic

With a sailboat full of toys, murals of blue skies over the sea and a lighthouse illuminated with all colors of the rainbow, the new $1.6 million DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic transports families to a beachside getaway.

The expanded beach-themed clinic, supported by funds raised through the UK DanceBlue organization and dance marathon event, is designed to enhance resources, privacy and care for pediatric patients and families battling cancer. The student-run organization raised more than $1.3 million to upgrade the clinic, with additional support from donors inspired by the DanceBlue movement.

‘The transformational power of we’

On Monday, UK President Eli Capilouto, DanceBlue student-volunteers, KCH staff, and patients and their families celebrated the grand opening of the clinic during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Capilouto commended the efforts of DanceBlue students, donors and organizers who pledged to upgrade the facility for Kentucky’s youngest cancer patients.

“With the dedication of the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic we acknowledge the transformational power of ‘we’ and the enduring dedication of UK students to build a better world,” Capilouto said. “The new clinic better positions the faculty, staff and clinicians responsible for caring for the strongest among us  the kids for whom nearly 1,000 UK students will stand and dance in a couple weeks. Our students provide the constant reminder that, together, we will fight ‘For the Kids’ until the battle is won.”

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology

Relocated to Kentucky Children’s Hospital, the new clinic boasts more than 6,000 square feet, doubling the space of the former outpatient clinic located at the Kentucky Clinic. The waiting room features an interactive lighthouse, with a touchpad that allows children to choose the color of the light, as well as a 300-gallon fish aquarium. The clinic is furnished with spacious exam rooms, four private infusion rooms for chemotherapy and three semi-private infusion rooms designated for specific age groups.

The clinic’s beach theme complements the Ocean Pod, where DanceBlue patients stay during inpatient treatment. Consistent with the theme, DanceBlue volunteers and clinic staff can leave encouraging messages for patients in a wall compartment resembling a “message in a bottle.” The waiting room also includes three computer stations where patients can check-in for appointments. The new clinic houses a separate phlebotomy and port access station, as well as an exclusive pharmacy and child life coordinator.

“Our new DanceBlue Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic has been transformational for cancer care at Kentucky Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Lars Wagner, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. “Our patients and their families now have a warm and spacious clinic with private and semi-private infusion rooms. My staff and I are so grateful to DanceBlue.”

People make the place

Nine-year-old patient Ryan Cremeens has received cancer treatment at the DanceBlue Clinic since June 2016. The Cremeens family recently transitioned from the old clinic to the new facility. While they appreciate the new clinic features, Eric Cremeens, Ryan’s dad, believes it’s the people at the clinic the doctors, nurses and staff who make his son’s experience meaningful.

“It obviously takes a special person to do the jobs they do at the clinic,” Eric Cremeens said. “We are more than blessed to have Dr. Wagner during our visits. He has been a calming, steady voice throughout the entire treatment process. The nurses and staff are also incredible. By the second visit everyone knew Ryan’s name and recognized his face, and it has made the whole process much better.”

Wagner has not only impacted Eric Cremeens, but Ryan has also taken favor to him, referring to him as the “Wag-man.”

“Ryan feels comfortable going there and he loves Dr. Wagner,” Cremeens said. “Dr. Wagner is more than a top-notch physician  he’s just a great person.”

Ryan Cremeens also benefits from the DanceBlue student-volunteers who serve in the clinic during his visits. He enjoys seeing DanceBlue student-volunteer Bryan Adams, who also served as his Indian Summer Camp counselor.

“Every time I see Ryan and his family, it makes my day,” Adams said. “He is filled with so much joy and he makes everyone who is around him smile and laugh.”

The largest philanthropic event at UK

DanceBlue, the largest student-run philanthropy organization at the University of Kentucky, has made a profound impact on the children treated in the DanceBlue Clinic since its inception in 2006. The annual DanceBlue Marathon benefits the Golden Matrix Fund and, in turn, the DanceBlue Clinic. DanceBlue has raised more than $9.8 million for children and pledged more than $1 million to support the new clinic in 2013.

“It is truly special with all the new and exciting things happening at UK, for our students to be able to say they built a new facility too,” said Richie Simpson, the overall chair of DanceBlue. “It is a testament to the hard work of students throughout the past 12 years, and a commitment to continue fighting for the kids in our clinic.”

Ryan is expected to complete chemotherapy on March 30. The DanceBlue 2017 Marathon will take place the weekend of Feb. 25 and 26 from 8 p.m. Saturday through 8 p.m. Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. The marathon is open to the public from start to finish. For more information about DanceBlue, registration information or to support its efforts, visit danceblue.org.


Watch our video for a tour inside the new DanceBlue Clinic.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the pediatric cancer care provided at the DanceBlue Clinic.
  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you can support our mission.
Dr. Doug Lowy, interim director of the National Cancer Institute, recently visited the Markey Cancer Center, continuing a dialogue on cancer in Kentucky.

NCI director meets Markey researchers, faculty on special visit

Dr. Doug Lowy, interim director of the National Cancer Institute, recently visited the UK Markey Cancer Center, continuing a dialogue on cancer in Kentucky following his visit to Hazard, Ky. last fall.

Kentucky is home to the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country, a major health problem that Markey is dedicated to changing. In July 2013, Markey received a prestigious NCI designation, which allows the center access to more research funding, trials and treatments.

Much of Lowy’s visit focused on research. Nine UK faculty members gave presentations on major research initiatives and programs at Markey, ranging from efforts in cancer prevention and control to drug development and discovery. Major topics of discussion centered around the cancer types that affect Kentuckians the most: lung cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer/HPV and the hepatitis C virus, which is linked to liver cancer.

After meeting with a group of Markey junior faculty members, Lowy learned more about the UK HealthCare enterprise and its support of Markey from Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK. Lowy finished the day with a tour of clinical space in UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital’s Pavilion A – future home to Markey’s Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplantation inpatient floor – and a dedicated cancer research lab in the UK College of Pharmacy.

“We were honored to have Dr. Doug Lowy visit us today at the UK Markey Cancer Center to learn more about our patients and the research we do here,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of Markey. “It was a wonderful opportunity to engage with the NCI and with Dr. Lowy, so that they better understand some of the difficulties we have in delivering care to our patient population.”

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Next steps:

  • Markey is Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.
  • Learn more about Markey’s NCI designation and what it means for our patients and their families.

Video, Part 2: Dr. Miller on what you need to know about Pap smears

Pap smears, annual exams and the HPV vaccine are important tools for all women in the fight against cervical cancer. Unfortunately, not enough women in Kentucky take these preventative actions, says UK Markey Cancer Center gynecologic oncologist Dr. Rachel Miller. We sat down with Dr. Miller to discuss how regular check-ups and Pap smears can help prevent advanced cervical cancer.

Watch our interview with Dr. Miller to learn more about cervical cancer prevention, including a breakdown of the latest Pap smear recommendations.


Next steps:

Watch: Dr. Rachel Miller discusses the HPV vaccine, cervical cancer prevention

We sat down with Dr. Rachel Miller, a gynecologic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center, to discuss the HPV vaccine and why it’s so important in preventing cervical cancer. HPV, or the human papillomavirus, causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, but the vaccine can protect young men and women against the disease.

Watch our interview with Dr. Miller to learn more about the HPV vaccine and why she recommends it.


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This Making the Rounds features Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of hematology and blood and marrow transplantation at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Meet Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, hematologist: ‘We’re here to help’

Making the RoundsIn this week’s edition of Making the Rounds, we’re joined by Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of hematology and blood and marrow transplantation at the UK Markey Cancer Center. Dr. Hildebrandt moved to the United States in 2009 after earning his medical degree in Germany.

What kinds of cancer do you treat?

We treat cancers of the blood and lymph system. We treat leukemia, we treat lymphoma, we treat multiple myeoma. We do treat benign disorders of the blood, like clotting disorders and bleeding disorders, but my special focus is in malignant hematology, which is really cancer of the blood and lymph system, and also bone marrow transplantation.

What do you most enjoy about your specialty?

I think that the chance to offer something, which, in a horrific moment in a patient’s life, can bring light – it’s just very satisfying. The other thing is, I do not fix and disconnect with the patients. I think in our field there are long-lasting relationships with the patients, and this is a thing which makes it unique and very exciting for me.

What do you want potential patients to know about you?

What I want them to know is that not only me, but our entire team really, really cares for them. And that we really spend the time they need. There’s no rush. My favorite slogan is always, “There’s no rushing medicine.” See, we do not rush patients in and out – that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to help.

How would your friends and family describe you?

Ambitious, hardworking – maybe overly hardworking. But on the other side I’m very childish. You know, fun-loving.

Describe your ideal weekend.

I’d spend it with my kids. I usually take my son for swimming, and we usually have a movie night on one of those days where we watch a movie with the kids and try to spend some time with them.

Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled?

I think it’s Botswana. I did two trips to Botswana. I went on a cruise, and then I slept in the wild with no cellphone, no guns, no weapons. It was very interesting to sleep there and hear the animals close by with no fences.

What do you enjoy about living in Lexington?

It’s a very livable town. Very nice, very friendly. I like downtown. I think there are quite a few good restaurants and places to get a drink once and a while. It’s very green. Where I live I can bike through the backstreets, so that’s good.


Take a look at our video interview with Dr. Hildebrandt below. He speaks about what makes working Markey so unique.


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