Collaboration among physicians is a key factor in successful outcomes
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy--these typically are a physician’s best weapons in the fight against cancer. Depending on the site and size of the tumor, a patient’s ultimate course of treatment could involve one or more of these options.
For Tom Turner of Los Altos Hills, who had been diagnosed with advanced-stage melanoma in 2011, the picture was a little more complicated. Because of the size and location of the tumor on his liver, he was not a candidate for surgery. And the tumor was too big for radiation treatment alone.
Turner’s oncologist at the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center, Shane Dormady, MD, started him on an immediate course of chemotherapy. When a follow-up CT scan showed that this first line of treatment had shrunk the tumor by only 50 percent, Dr. Dormady turned to his colleagues in radiology and radiation oncology. They suggested a hybrid approach, using radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and the Cyberknife, to get rid of the tumor and give Turner his best chance of surviving his melanoma.
With RFA, the radiologist guides one or more small needles through the skin and into the tumor; once the needle enters the tumor, high-frequency microwave energy, delivered into the needles, heats the cancerous tissue and destroys it. “RFA treatment can often work as well as surgery in removing large tumorsand it’s less invasive for the patient,” says Fabio Komlos, MD, interventional radiologist. Dr. Komlos then referred Turner to radiation oncologist Robert Sinha, MD, who recommended a final course of CyberKnife targeted radiation treatment. A follow-up PET scan showed that Turner was in complete remission, an outcome that is essentially “unheard of” in advanced-stage melanoma, according to Dr. Dormady. “Tom’s story is a good example of how collaboration among experts can positively affect a cancer patient’s treatment outcomes,” says John Holt, executive director, El Camino Hospital Cancer Center. “Collaboration happens formally through such processes as the Tumor Board, or informally, such as in Tom’s case, when colleagues collaborate on a patient’s treatment options. At the Cancer Center, patients become part of a big team, all working to achieve the best possible outcomes.”
Read Tom's story in his own words, which he submitted as part of our 50 Patients, 50 Stories series.