National Multi-Disciplinary Initiative to Focus on Research, Education, Patient Care and Faculty Development
University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, today announced the establishment of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment and Research Center. The multi-disciplinary Center will enable the School to conduct research, treatment, and education in thoracic oncology to help those suffering from mesothelioma, a rare but often fatal form of cancer that affects the lungs, chest, heart and abdomen, most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.
The Director of the new Center is Joseph Friedberg, MD, who was recently appointed the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Thoracic Surgeon-in-Chief for the University of Maryland Medical System. Dr. Friedberg is internationally recognized for his contributions to the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma and other thoracic malignancies. He brings a wealth of technical and clinical expertise, as one of the pioneers in lung-sparing surgery for mesothelioma, and previously founded and directed the first truly comprehensive program for malignant pleural mesothelioma in the United States. H. Richard Alexander, MD, Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma and other peritoneal malignancies, will partner with Dr. Friedberg to make the UM SOM Center the most comprehensive and advanced program in the world for treating any type of mesothelioma or pleural/peritoneal cancer.
“We have the tremendous opportunity to be at the forefront of clinical programs that are backed by leading research and top faculty talent in this critical area of thoracic oncology,” said Dean Reece, who is also Vice President, Medical Affairs, the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “With this new Center serving as a focal point of excellence, we have established a team approach focused on bringing the latest discoveries directly to the patients who are suffering from these illnesses.”
The new initiative will serve as a comprehensive multidisciplinary center where patients from all over the world will be evaluated and treated by a multidisciplinary team with an individualized state of the art treatment plan, derived at a weekly multidisciplinary conference and implemented immediately thereafter at the Center’s clinic.
Disciplines being brought to bear for the Center’s patients include: thoracic surgery, surgical oncology, immunology, pulmonary medicine, gastroenterology, pathology, oncology nursing, medical oncology, radiation oncology, palliative care, radiology, social work, psychiatry, clergy, nutrition, physical therapy, occupational medicine and integrative medicine.
The Center is designed to offer patients easy access to all specialists relevant to the treatment of their disease, as well as support services to make the process easier for patients. While patient care is the primary focus of the Center, equally important missions in the war against these rare and lethal cancers include basic science, translational and clinical research, education and service to the community. All of this is geared toward the Center providing the best treatments available today and developing the best treatments for the future, while sharing and promoting this service with the world’s medical community.
“It is the School of Medicine’s primary goal, as the surgical leader in the State, to ensure that our citizens have access to the most sophisticated care for all their surgical conditions,” said Stephen Bartlett, MD, the Peter Angelos Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the UM SOM. “Having these new resources in the areas of mesothelioma and thoracic oncology will enable our researchers and faculty to save lives and better understand this often deadly disease that has been particularly prevalent in the State of Maryland,” added Dr. Bartlett, who is also the Senior Vice President and Surgeon-in-Chief for the University of Maryland Medical System.
The new Treatment and Research Center will also work closely with the UM Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC), led by Kevin J. Cullen, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director, as part of UMGCC’s commitment to providing specialized care to cancer patients. Within the University of Maryland Medical System, the Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Research and Treatment Center will be connected to the other Programs and Centers via web conferencing into the weekly patient conference.
About 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. The disease is often fatal, with a five-year survival rate of between five and ten percent. The disease has been linked with exposure to asbestos. Maryland’s asbestos exposure is higher than the national average, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, due to the once-prominent local steel industry.