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Markey first to perform unique procedure for ovarian cancer

Physicians at the UK Markey Cancer Center are the first to perform a unique procedure to treat a rare and persistent type of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Lauren Baldwin

Dr. Lauren Baldwin

Surgical oncologist Dr. Lauren Baldwin and radiation oncologist Dr. Jonathan Feddock collaborated on the procedure, which involved resecting a patient’s tumor and installing a special internal radiation device known as a CivaSheet.

The CivaSheet has been used for some gynecological, colorectal, head and neck, and pancreatic cancers as well as soft tissue sarcomas, but this is the first known instance of using it for ovarian cancer.

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

The patient who underwent the procedure has been living with a rare type of slow-growing ovarian cancer for nearly three decades. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation failed to stop the disease.

Prior to this procedure, she had undergone four previous surgeries at both a local community hospital and at Markey to remove as much of the tumor as possible every few years as it grew back. Because of the location of the cancer, surgeons have only been able to safely resect about 90 percent of the tumor.

“This cancer is tricky to treat, because it is prone to recur but grows slowly,” Baldwin said. “That makes it relatively resistant to chemotherapy, which attacks fast-growing cells. Surgery is usually the best option, but each additional surgery becomes riskier for the patient.”

Markey experts brainstorm an innovative idea

Before deciding to offer yet another tumor resection as an option to the patient, Baldwin sought help from Markey’s weekly multidisciplinary tumor conference to see if oncology experts in other fields had any ideas. Feddock, who specializes in brachytherapy – a form of radiation that involves using internal implants to disseminate radiation – suggested they try combining the surgery with an implantation of the CivaSheet.

The CivaSheet is a highly flexible membrane embedded with radioactive palladium. After Baldwin resected the tumor, Feddock sewed the CivaSheet directly to the remaining cancerous area. The radiation seeds are capped with gold on one side, so they provide direct, localized radiation to the area where the tumor has been growing back while sparing the other surrounding tissue from damage.

Potential to help patients with difficult cancer

While the procedure may not cure the patient of her cancer, the hope is that the CivaSheet will inhibit the cancer’s growth, allowing many more symptom-free years to pass before the patient may need further treatment.

Because of the tumor’s slow-growing nature, Baldwin says it will take some time before they know how effective the procedure is, but she is hopeful about the outcome.

“This treatment has potential to offer control of this cancer for patients who don’t have any other options,” Baldwin said. “We’re hoping to add both quantity and quality of life for a patient in a difficult scenario.”


Next steps:

No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

We’re the No. 1 hospital in Ky., again

UK HealthCare Albert B. Chandler Hospital remains the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings released today.

In addition, four major areas have achieved Top 50 national rankings, three of them for the first time. UK HealthCare rankings included: No. 37 in Diabetes and Endocrinology, No. 43 in Geriatrics, No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery, and No. 50 in Cancer.

Along with the Top 50 rankings, UK HealthCare is ranked as high-performing in five other adult specialties – Gastroenterology and GI Surgery; Nephrology; Orthopaedics; Pulmonology; and Urology. Additionally, UK HealthCare was designated high-performing in eight common adult procedures and conditions: Aortic Valve Surgery, Heart Bypass Surgery, Heart Failure, Colon Cancer Surgery, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, and Lung Cancer Surgery.

These recognitions cement UK HealthCare’s role as the major healthcare system best equipped to deal with our state’s unique health needs, said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs.

“We are committed to providing the best programs and best care available in Kentucky so that no one has to travel far from home for world-class advanced specialty care,” Karpf said. “These rankings speak to the hard work and dedication of our physicians, our nurses and our entire healthcare team.”

‘We’re ready no matter the situation’

This year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings cover nearly every hospital in every community nationwide. The rankings are grounded in objective data and offer patients a rich resource on their hospital choices. More than 70 percent of the rankings are based on objective data, with U.S. News analyzing more than 2,600 metrics across 21 data-driven specialties and procedures and conditions. The result is thousands of data points on hospitals that excel at treating the most challenging cases, those that do best in more routine procedures and those that provide top local care.

“UK HealthCare is a place where you feel safe because you know we’re ready no matter the situation or illness,” said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare’s chief administrative officer.

“If you have someone you love who lives in Kentucky, you will need UK HealthCare at some point in time. Whether it’s someone with a newly diagnosed cancer, or a premature baby, or a critically ill or injured child, or brother or mother or sister, you want to know that a place like this is ready to go when you need us.”

Diabetes & Endocrinology

This year’s rankings included a major leap for UK’s diabetes and endocrinology program. The specialty at UK HealthCare, previously unranked, is now No. 37 in the country, a testament to both the clinical care and research at the UK Barnstable-Brown Diabetes Center.

“We are one of the few places in Kentucky where all these services are provided either under one roof or where we can engage people to help you in all these different arenas,” said Dr. John Fowlkes, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

This collaboration and patient-centered care offered at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center provide patients with outstanding clinical care throughout their lifespan and for all aspects of their health, said Dr. Lisa Tannock, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine.

“Our physicians, advanced practice providers, endocrinology fellows and staff, including expert-certified diabetes educators, continually seek opportunities to teach advanced patient care based on our ongoing research into the best ways to prevent and treat diabetes and endocrine diseases,” she said.

Geriatrics

UK HealthCare was ranked No. 43 in Geriatrics. The U.S. News Geriatrics rankings represent how well hospitals treat older patients across a wide range of medical issues and conditions.

Dr. Shawn Caudill, professor and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Women’s Health, sees increasingly more geriatric patients in UK HealthCare’s outpatient clinics. He said the rankings are an indication of the high-quality care that UK HealthCare provides to a population that is living longer than before.

“We’ve had lot of success in overcoming the things that used to kill people – heart attacks, strokes, lung disease – and we’ve done interventions to help keep people going longer,” Caudill said. “And now it is important for us to continue to help take care of them.”

Neurology & Neurosurgery

For the first time, UK HealthCare is nationally ranked for its neurological care, coming in at No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“This is something we’ve been working on for the past two years,” said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, the Ruth L. Works Professor and chair of the UK Department of Neurology, and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI). “It’s wonderful to be able to have our faculty and staff receive this recognition for all the great things they’re doing.”

Fellow KNI Co-Director Linda Van Eldik, who also is director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, was pleased with national rankings in Neurology and Neurosurgery as well as Geriatrics.

“This is really a culmination of the work we’ve been doing for many years in the areas of brain,” Van Eldik said. “It’s recognition from the outside of what we already knew – that we were doing leading-edge work and we are continuing to enhance our excellence.”

Cancer care

Cancer care was included in the Top 50 for the first time – although it has consistently been designated as high performing for many years. Still, the move up is indicative of the Markey Cancer Center’s continued emphasis on providing exemplary care as the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center.

“We see 50 percent of our patients coming from Eastern Kentucky, which has some of the highest rates of cancer in the country – particularly lung cancer and colon cancer. So the Markey Cancer Center is vitally important to our region,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center.

The people behind the scenes

In acknowledging all of UK HealthCare’s national rankings and achievements, one factor is always first to be attributed to success – the people who work here.

“I’ve been here almost a year and a half, and to see what the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare has achieved, really in a short time, is remarkable,” said UK College of Medicine Dean Dr. Robert DiPaola. “And to see the passion of the people here behind the scenes doing the things that make a difference for our patients – it is absolutely amazing. I know that going forward we will continue this trajectory.”


Hear more about this awesome recognition, including comments from some of UK HealthCare’s leaders, in the video below.


Next steps:

Owensboro Health Markey

Owensboro Health joins Markey Cancer Center Research Network

Owensboro Health has joined the UK Markey Cancer Center Research Network (MCCRN), giving patients in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana increased access to innovative clinical research studies.

Areas of research will include epidemiology, prevention and early detection of cancer. Markey is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, which means Owensboro Health will have access to NCI-led trials in addition to MCCRN trials.

“Owensboro Health is proud to join the Markey Cancer Center Research Network, which is a distinguished and recognized name in cancer care and clinical research,” Owensboro Health President and CEO Greg Strahan said. “Owensboro Health exists to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities we serve, and this partnership is a demonstration of our commitment to both parts of that mission.”

Owensboro Health was invited to participate in the Markey Research Network based on performance and achievements. Owensboro Health’s Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center serves the health system’s coverage area, a population of nearly 400,000 people across 14 counties in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. More than 1,000 patients are treated at the center annually.

“By becoming a member of the Markey Research Network, Owensboro Health is showing a commitment to helping us conquer cancer in the Commonwealth,” Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers said. “Clinical trials represent the latest, best treatment options for most patients, and being able to participate in major national and regional clinical trials right here in Owensboro means that patients are able to stay close to their own support systems at home and under the direct care of their doctors here.”

Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center also holds multiple accreditations and recognitions. These include accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the CoC’s gold award, the highest recognition that body offers. Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center is also accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the American College of Radiology and is an ACR-designated lung cancer screening center.

The importance of clinical trials

Clinical trials are key to developing new methods to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and most treatments used today are the results of previous clinical studies. These may include studies in which patients who need cancer treatment receive their therapy under the observation of specially trained cancer doctors and staff. Patients who volunteer for cancer treatment studies will either receive standard therapy or a new treatment that represents the researchers’ best new ideas for how to improve cancer care.

“Cancer care is constantly improving, due in part to the groundbreaking work being done in clinical research,” said Dr. Tim Mullett, medical director of the MCCRN. “Our state has some of the worst cancer incidence and survival rates in the entire country, and we at Markey have an obligation to address this devastating disease. By increasing access to many of our current clinical trials through the Markey Research Network, we have an opportunity to make real progress in improving cancer statistics in Kentucky.”

Markey’s clinical trials focus on the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancers with the highest incidence and mortality in Kentucky. These include lung, colorectal and cervical cancers. Owensboro Health is now one of six research sites in the MCCRN, and the first site in Western Kentucky. The MCCRN includes the following sites:

  • Hardin Memorial Hospital, Elizabethtown
  • King’s Daughters Medical Center, Ashland
  • Owensboro Health
  • St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead
  • St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center, Huntington, West Virginia
  • Tri-State Regional Cancer Center, Ashland

Watch the video below to find out how the Markey Research Network is bringing the future of cancer treatment to patients all across Kentucky.


Next steps:

Markey extends cancer network to Prestonsburg

Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg, Ky., has announced a new affiliation with the UK Markey Cancer Center, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

By becoming a UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network member, Highlands Regional Medical Center will now be able to offer more patients in Eastern Kentucky access to additional specialty and subspecialty care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay in their region for most treatments.

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network supports UK HealthCare’s overall mission of ensuring no Kentuckian will have to leave the state to get access to top-of-the-line healthcare.

“UK HealthCare doesn’t just serve Lexington and Central Kentucky – our mission is to provide all Kentuckians with the best possible care right here in the state,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network allows us to collaborate with community hospitals to provide top-notch cancer care much closer to home – saving both travel expenses and time for the patients, in addition to keeping them close to their personal support system.”

Highlands Regional Medical Center is a not-for-profit, community-owned and operated hospital established to serve Floyd, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin counties by providing high-quality health services and other community resources that will develop a healthier community.

“Affiliating with the UK Markey Cancer Center opens the door to numerous resources for our hospital and community,” said Harold C. Warman Jr., president and chief executive officer at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “Our staff will benefit from continued education opportunities, our community will benefit from health promotion and access to the most recent community-based cancer care, and our doctors will have access to the latest in cancer care professional education. Markey is a national leader in cancer research and care, and we are grateful for our association.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network was created to provide high-quality cancer care closer to home for patients across the region, and to minimize the effects of cancer through prevention and education programs, exceptional clinical care and access to research.

“Navigating cancer treatment can be challenging for patients and their families,” said Dr. Swaty Arora, medical oncologist/hematologist at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “At Highlands, our goal is to provide standard-of-care treatment in a timely and cost-effective manner. This affiliation validates our intention to provide quality care and affords access to resources to optimize patient care.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center is one of only 69 medical centers in the country to earn an NCI cancer center designation. Because of the designation, Markey patients have access to new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI centers.

Moving forward, the UK Markey Cancer Center is working toward the next tier of designation – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 45 of the 69 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status. The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a large role in bringing that next level of cancer funding to Kentucky.

“Kentucky is home to some of the worst cancer rates in the country,” said Dr. Timothy Mullett, medical director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network. “Collaborating with our affiliate hospitals across the state will enable us to make a positive impact on the dire cancer rates here in the Commonwealth.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network began in 2006 and comprises 17 hospitals across the state of Kentucky. Learn more.

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Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network, which gives people across Kentucky access to high-quality cancer services and programs through collaboration with community hospitals.
  • 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.
cancer survivor

Markey clinic promotes quality of life for cancer survivors

This Sunday is National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual event that encourages those who have survived  cancer to celebrate milestones and supports patients and families currently going through treatment.

At the UK Markey Cancer Center, we have a specialized program just for cancer survivors that offers support and resources to help navigate the complicated and often-overwhelming aspects of life after treatment.

Cancer Survivorship Clinic

Even after treatment is complete, cancer can impact a patient’s physical, emotional, social and financial well-being. Our Cancer Survivorship Clinic is designed to help patients overcome those challenges by connecting their medical history with their future quality of life as a cancer survivor.

When a patient is referred to the Survivorship Clinic, they meet with a provider who specializes in survivorship care. That provider then works with the patient to customize a personalized plan that coordinates ongoing medical care and promotes the patient’s health and wellness moving forward.

Individual care plans address important aspects of patients’ continued care including long-term effects of treatment, diet and nutrition, emotional and psychological support, and social and financial concerns.

The Cancer Survivorship Clinics are located in the Whitney-Hendrickson Building and the Ben Roach Building at the UK Markey Cancer Center. If you have questions about our clinic or would like to make an appointment, please call us at 800-333-8874.

Expressions of Courage

Later this month, Markey and the Survivorship Clinic will host the annual Expressions of Courage event, a cancer survivor celebration timed to coincide with other nationwide celebrations in June for Cancer Survivorship Month.

Expressions of Courage honors the experiences of those who have battled cancer by displaying their art and creative expressions, many of which can be linked to their cancer experiences. This year’s event is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 9 and will feature visual, literary, and musical performances from Markey cancer survivors as well as a free lunch and access to support services.

Learn more about Expressions of Courage and register for the event today.


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.
  • When her previous oncologist told Annette Osborne there was no hope, she came to Markey and found another chance at life. Read Annette’s story.
During the third annual Appalachian Research Day, UK researchers revealed the insights of their studies aimed at addressing health problems of rural Ky.

Appalachian Research Day addresses rural health issues

Inviting researchers to “come sit on the porch” and share their findings with community members, the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) hosted its third annual Appalachian Research Day in Hazard, Ky., on May 24.

Rural Appalachian communities experience some of the most severe health disparities in the nation, and community-based research is an effective method to identify problems and develop collaborative, effective solutions.

This type of engaged research begins at the local level, built on the foundation of relationships with individuals, neighborhoods and groups who have common questions and concerns. And for many researchers at UK and partner institutions, the CERH is an indispensable resource for conducting community-based research. It provides local connections, infrastructure, dedicated research personnel and a team of community health workers, called Kentucky Homeplace, who engage participants and gather data.

“Appalachian Research Day is an important and exciting day for us each year at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health. It is an opportunity for us to provide research updates to our community about relevant issues that affect all of us,” said Fran Feltner, director of the CERH. “Appalachian Research Day is also an opportunity for dialogue with community members to discuss what we can come up with together to better our lives in Appalachia.”

This year’s event, which was held at Hazard Community and Technical College to accommodate the growing number of participants, included Hazard Mayor Jimmy Lindon and Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander, who both made remarks during lunch. Also present were Andrea Begley, field office representative for U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, and Jenna Meyer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is on special assignment in Eastern Kentucky for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative.

Research insights in cancer, addiction, nutrition

Featured presentations reported findings from five health research studies conducted with Appalachian communities:

  • Dr. Susanne Arnold, associate director of clinical translation at the UK Markey Cancer Center, presented her research examining the interrelated causes of lung cancer and how to combat them. She reported that lung cancer risk has environmental, physical and molecular causes, some of which can be prevented.
  • Nancy Schoenberg, PhD, associate dean for research of the UK College of Public Health and Marion Pearsall Professor of Behavioral Science in the UK College of Medicine, studies the health of grandfamilies in Appalachia. Her recent study with rural adults over age 65 found that half of them struggled to make ends meet and experienced many physical health problems.
  • Dr. Judith Feinberg, professor in the Department of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry at West Virginia University School of Medicine, studies behavioral medicine and psychiatry. She presented her research on addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease, reporting that syringe services programs (SSPs) operate under the principles of harm reduction and have been shown to offer significant protection for people injecting drugs, including lower risk of HIV infection.
  • Jarod T. Giger, PhD, of the UK colleges of social work, medicine and public health, studies child well-being in Eastern Kentucky. In a recent study, he found that children in three Eastern Kentucky counties reported relatively high amounts of electronic health literacy but low amounts of overall life satisfaction and affective and psychological well-being.
  • Omopé Carter Daboiku is an Appalachian foodways scholar who leads workshops that operate on an emotional level to help participants understand that adapting family recipes to healthier versions doesn’t disrespect one’s ancestors. Her work incorporates nostalgic attachment to food memories, with the understanding that the relationships these memories invoke can make it difficult to prepare healthier food.

Next steps:

Annette Osborne, a cancer patient with not much time to live, was referred to a Markey physician. His innovative treatment allowed Osborne to keep living.

After grim prognosis, Winchester woman finds answers at Markey

For Annette Osborne, a cancer patient from Winchester, the prognosis was not good. Her oncologist had given up. “Enjoy the time you have left with your family, there’s nothing more we can do,” he told her.

But Osborne wasn’t ready to die, at least not without a fight. She wasn’t ready to give up on being there for her husband and children or watching her grandchildren grow up.

Initially, Osborne had ignored the symptoms that turned out to be cancer. She’d been caring for her ailing father, so it was easy to overlook her own aches and pains.

When she noticed abnormal bleeding, she saw her gynecologist, who said it was likely nothing to be concerned about, that it was probably a small tear that would heal on its own. When that didn’t happen, she went back for more tests. That was when she learned she had vaginal cancer.

After her oncologist told her to prepare to die, Osborne pushed back, and the doctor offered one more sliver of hope.

Dr. Jonathan Feddock at the UK Markey Cancer Center was doing some innovative treatment. Osborne seized her chance, and in early 2016, she met with Feddock to see if he could help her.

An uncommon approach

Feddock, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Medicine, was the only physician in the area providing a brachytherapy treatment known as permanent interstitial implants. Brachytherapy, a type of internal radiation therapy, uses radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. While brachytherapy is a common treatment option, the use of permanent seeds which, in Osborne’s case, were placed free-handed inside the vagina, were not.

According to Feddock, the general opinion among most oncologists is that once a patient develops a recurrence of their cancer and it is in a part of their body that has been radiated before, there is no curative treatment other than radical surgery. But access to an NCI-designated cancer center and physicians who conduct research on new treatment options is part of the reason Osborne is alive today.

And she is doing better than she could have ever imagined. She’s been able to watch one of her daughters become a mother and attend sleepovers with her granddaughter. “It’s the small things that I appreciate, like a beautiful spring day and the chance to enjoy the sun. This disease has taken so many people that I know; I take the chance to enjoy anything I can,” Osborne said.

Feddock has a positive outlook on her prognosis as well. “Our own results suggest that if there is no sign of cancer coming back after six months, then most women tend to do well,” he said. It’s been more than a year since Osborne’s treatment, Feddock continued, “so in her case, I am hopeful that this cancer is behind her.”

Looking toward the future

Osborne is excited for what the future could hold for her. A nurse by training, she’s interested in working with cancer patients when she returns to work. “I’ve been thinking about going back to the healthcare field; there may be more schooling in my future,” she said. Her experience as a patient who was told the end was near is something Osborne believes will make her a more empathetic healthcare provider.

Osborne has been back at the gym and preparing for her healthier life. She’s even excited to be training for her first 5K.

A referral to Dr. Feddock and an unwillingness to give up are what she credits for having the chance to enjoy the rest of her life, and that’s exactly what she plans to do.


Next steps:

  • Caring physicians, clinical trials and the power of advanced medicine all come together at the UK Markey Cancer Center to give patients the best treatment possible.
  • For many women, getting regular Pap smears could be the difference between catching cervical cancer early or discovering it late.
molecular tumor board

Watch: Our new TV spot highlights precision cancer care at Markey

Our new TV spot tells the exciting story of how the UK Markey Cancer Center is using precision medicine to target cancer treatment to patients’ unique cancer cells. Watch the video below and learn more about how we’re harnessing the power of advanced medicine to find the best treatment for each patient.

Treating cancer at the molecular level

The future of cancer treatment is fighting the disease at the level of an individual gene, breaking down a diagnosis by analyzing each patient’s unique genetic characteristics. At Markey, our Molecular Tumor Board is leading this fight, bringing personalized, precision medicine to patients across Kentucky.

The Molecular Tumor Board, which is made up of more than a dozen leading clinicians and scientists, meets monthly to review individual cancer cases from across the Commonwealth, diving deep into patients’ genetic information, then collectively tailoring a precision treatment specifically for them.

Tailoring a precision treatment

Dr. Jill Kolesar

Dr. Jill Kolesar

“It’s well accepted that cancer is chiefly a genetic disorder,” says Dr. Jill Kolesar, a founding member and co-director of Markey’s Molecular Tumor Board. “The first genome that was sequenced took 13 years and $2.7 billion dollars. Now we can sequence a genome in an afternoon.”

Such significant advances in technology have helped spur precision medicine, but have also created large quantities of genetic information, Kolesar said. It’s up to the Molecular Tumor Board to interpret that vast amount of data and apply it to an individual’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Susanne Arnold

Dr. Susanne Arnold

Medical oncologist Dr. Susanne Arnold, Markey’s associate director for clinical translation and member of the Molecular Tumor Board, is helping lead this individualized approach to cancer treatment. A precision approach to diagnosis and analysis is the future of care, she said.

“You take a biopsy and do the genomic analysis, called next-generation sequencing, which helps us understand exactly what happened with that cell that resulted in cancer,” she explained.

But what might sound like a routine test in modern medicine is much more remarkable in these particular cases.

“Molecular medicine is actually discovering the information about a unique cancer in a specific person at a precise point in time,” she said. “Pinpointing this allows us to understand why it happened, why our treatment did or didn’t work, and how we can potentially stop (the cancer).”

In short, these tests allow for a remarkably detailed understanding of what goes wrong in cancerous cells. And that sort of comprehensive knowledge helps the tumor board choose the best treatment from among the many options available at Markey.

How the molecular tumor board works

Markey’s Molecular Tumor Board is not the first of its kind, but it is the first in Kentucky. And that’s significant, given the unprecedented rates of cancer across the state, most notably in the rural, eastern parts of Kentucky.

With the board meeting twice monthly, oncologists across the state can reach out for a recommendation for therapy based on their patient’s molecular signature.

There are more than a dozen scientific specialties represented on the board, and more than 300 years of experience in total. All of this is applied to a single patient as cases are presented to the board, and the inclusion of each patient’s own physician in the process ensures an intimate understanding of that patient’s condition and outlook.

Each patient’s cancer will be tested for all genetic mutations that are known to cause cancer, regardless of what type of tumor the patient has. The tumor board then uses the results of that test to choose possible treatment options that target the genetic mutations. Each mutation is evaluated for FDA-approved therapies for the patient’s tumor type, FDA-approved off-label therapies and any clinical trials available related to the patient’s specific mutations.

Taking into consideration the available treatment options, the Molecular Tumor Board will make a recommendation based on the best possible outcome for the patient.

For a single patient, for all of Kentucky

As more tumor boards are established across the country and more cases are reviewed, a bank of information will be available to doctors to help them determine the best course of action for patients with similar cases.

“Everything we discover is designed to help you, and by sharing this information in an anonymous way, it can help people across the country suffering with cancer. We’re all being connected through this process, and that’s a beautiful, beautiful story to tell,” Arnold said. “Imagine you are ‘Anne’ from Pikeville, Kentucky, but behind you is your doctor, the Markey Cancer Center, other NCI-designated cancer centers, the National Cancer Institute … and ‘John’ in New York City, who has the same mutation as you. The six degrees of separation suddenly disappear, and ideally you each benefit from the experience of the other.”

Dr. Mark Evers

Dr. Mark Evers

That is the crux of Markey’s ambitions: an individualized approach to each patient, but on a large scale. In an open letter released at the end of 2016, Dr. Mark Evers, director of Markey, made public a goal of the organization: to significantly reduce cancer incidence and mortality across the state, and the region, by the year 2020. It’s a lofty aspiration, but initiatives like the Molecular Tumor Board position Markey for success.

As Kolesar said, “When researchers and clinicians at the Markey Cancer Center decide something is going to benefit patients, like the Molecular Tumor Board, they say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

This team spirit spans the entire organization. Kolesar noted the collegiality and support for accomplishing goals at UK HealthCare.

“Dr. Evers, says, ‘You just tell me what you need, and we’ll make it happen, because that’s what we think the patients of Kentucky need,’” she said.

Such sweeping change, especially when it comes to issues as complicated and extensive as healthcare, rarely happens quickly. But a series of small successes, over time, can have an enormous ripple effect. The experts who make up the Molecular Tumor Board understand this, and it’s their reason for participating in and offering their time to such programs.

“By understanding the genetic makeup of our patients and their tumors, we can then help to direct their therapy,” Evers said.

The future of advanced medicine

Treatment options at UK HealthCare are more abundant than ever before. The Early Therapeutics Clinical Trials Center focuses on increasing patient access to phase I and phase II clinical trials will also have a major impact for Markey patients.

“[Previously,] if patients in Kentucky needed an earlier-phase clinical trial, they would have to go out of state,” said Kolesar, explaining the advantage of the initiative.

These early-phase studies can offer patients new treatment avenues for cancers that have proved difficult to target using standard therapies. Essentially, it allows Markey to participate in the development of new and novel treatments while offering patients first access.

Being at the forefront of medicine means incredible discovery, but for every breakthrough, there are new unknowns. This uncharted territory is a product of advancement and a reason for optimism.

“Do we have a therapy for every gene that’s broken? No. But we do have therapies for genes that are broken in non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, colon cancer and a growing list every day. They are defined by their gene signature and by the gene that’s broken. That’s called targeted therapy,” Arnold said.

The hope is that this sort of targeting can be applied to all types of cancer, and Markey’s patients could be among the first to benefit.

“The Power of Advanced Medicine” is more than a slogan. It’s a guiding principle and a reminder that UK HealthCare prioritizes discovery in the name of our patients.


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. For a second opinion or appointment, call Markey at 859-257-4488 or 866-340-4488 (toll free).
  • Learn more about the power of advanced medicine at UK HealthCare.
Meet the Researcher Day

UK cancer researchers welcome middle, high school students

Middle and high school students from across the region came to UK and UK HealthCare last week for an up-close look at what it’s like to be a cancer researcher.

“Meet the Researcher Day,” hosted by the UK Markey Cancer Center and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), is a field trip reward given to schools in the region that successfully raise more than $1,000 for the LLS’s Pennies for Patients campaign.

This year, students from Shelby County West Middle School, Mercer County Senior High School, Henry County Middle School and New Albany High School in Indiana won the opportunity to visit the Biomedical/Biological Sciences Research Building on UK’s campus and learn more about how the money they raised for Pennies for Patients will help further cancer research.

After an introduction by UK researchers Tianyan Gao and Craig Vander Kooi, the students received a tour of different cancer research labs and learned how to use basic lab equipment. The event also featured remarks from Dr. John D’Orazio, a pediatric oncologist and cancer researcher as well as LLS Honored Hero Brad Wilson, a UK chemical engineering student and two-time leukemia survivor. The students also heard a panel discussion about careers in science featuring D’Orazio and UK students Michael Gosky and Payton Stevens.

“I think it’s important that students get to see the lab spaces, meet the researchers and understand what the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Markey Cancer Center mission is: The cure for cancer,” said Shelia Gustafson, campaign director for the Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of LLS.

Pennies for Patients is the annual fundraiser for the Student Series of the LLS. It encourages students to collect spare change during a three-week period early in the year. Funds raised support leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research; patient and community service; public health education; and professional education.

For this year’s campaign, 485 schools across the region participated, raising more than $400,000 – a new record. The schools participating in Pennies for Patients had to raise a minimum of $1,000 to win the chance to attend Meet the Researchers Day. The four schools at Meet the Researchers Day this year were chosen in a random drawing, raising more than $10,000 combined for LLS.

Check out the video below for highlights from this year’s Meet the Research Day.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about clinical trials at Markey, which give patients access to the most up-to-date cancer research and innovations.
  • 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.
UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network

Markey extends cancer network to Somerset

Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset has announced a new affiliation with the UK Markey Cancer Center, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network was created to provide high-quality cancer care closer to home for patients across the region and to minimize the effects of cancer through prevention and education programs, exceptional clinical care, and access to research.

By becoming a Markey affiliate, Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital will now be able to offer its patients access to additional specialty and subspecialty physicians and care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay in South Central Kentucky for most treatments.

The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network supports UK HealthCare’s overall mission of ensuring no Kentuckian will have to leave the state to get access to top-of-the-line healthcare.

“UK HealthCare doesn’t just serve Lexington and Central Kentucky – our mission is to provide all Kentuckians with the best possible care right here in the state,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network allows us to collaborate with community hospitals to provide top-notch cancer care much closer to home – saving both travel expenses and time for the patients, in addition to keeping them close to their personal support system.”

Established in 1976, Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital is a 295-bed acute care facility, providing healthcare services for an 11-county service area in South Central Kentucky. With more than 40 physician specialties and nearly 200 physicians on staff, Lake Cumberland offers the most comprehensive services in the region.

“As we work toward fulfilling our mission of ‘Making Communities Healthier,’ it is clear to me that the relationship between Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and the Markey Cancer Center will go a long way in achieving that goal,” said Tim Bess, Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital chief executive officer. “Our community will benefit greatly from this relationship. We are honored to partner with the UK Markey Cancer Center.”

Markey is one of only 69 medical centers in the country to earn an NCI cancer center designation. Because of the designation, Markey patients have access to new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI centers.

Moving forward, Markey is working toward the next tier of designation – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 47 of the 69 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status. The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a significant role in bringing that next level of cancer funding to Kentucky.

“The burden of cancer in Kentucky is huge, and unfortunately we have some of the worst cancer rates in the country,” said Dr. Timothy Mullett, medical director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network. “By collaborating with our affiliate hospitals across the state, we have the potential to make a serious impact on cancer care here in the Commonwealth.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network began in 2006 and currently has 17 member hospitals across the state of Kentucky. Learn more.


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