Kentucky now has the unfortunate distinction of being first among all 50
states in overall cancer mortality and cancer incidence (covering all
cancer sites). Our cancer problem is distinct and prevalent, which
underscores Markey's mission to reduce the cancer mortality in our
region. Fortunately, our colleagues here are doing their part to make a
difference in the lives of our patients, and many of them are going
above and beyond by becoming more directly involved in communities and
organizations that fight the cancer battle alongside Markey every day.
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 18, 2014) - To celebrate Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, cancer survivors and UK faculty and staff participated in a special tailgating event called "tealgating" eariler this month.
The event further helped create awareness about the UK Ovarian Screening Program, an ongoing study that uses transvaginal ultrasound to detect ovarian cancers. Women over age 50 and women over age 25 who have a family history of ovarian cancer are eligible for the free program.
More than 43,000 women have participated in the UK Ovarian Screening Program and more than 256,000 free ultrasound screens have been done through the program. Women from every county in Kentucky have participated in the program ane more than 85 malignancies have been detected.
For more information on the program or to schedule an appointment, visit http://ovarianscreening.info.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 16, 2014) – Dr. Edward M. Wolin, a nationally known expert in treating neuroendocrine and carcinoid tumors, has joined the team at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.
Neuroendocrine tumors develop from endocrine cells found in the digestive tract, lungs, pancreas, and other sites. These rare cancers present unique diagnostic challenges. They tend to be slow-growing, and usually have metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis.
At Markey, Wolin will serve as the director of the Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine Tumor Program. In addition to working with Markey's team of surgical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, and diagnostic radiologists, Wolin will collaborate on patient care with UK Chief of Medical Oncology Dr. Lowell Anthony. Anthony came to UK in 2011 and helped build up Markey's Neuroendocrine Clinic, the region's first multidisciplinary clinic dedicated to endocrine and neuroendocrine tumors.
Wolin brings a robust research program to Markey, including multiple clinical trials. His research efforts focus on finding treatments which are more effective and less toxic, including pasireotide, lanreotide, everolimus, other m-tor inhibitors, targeted radiation including peptide receptor radiotherapy with Lu-177, anti-angiogenic drugs, novel targeted biologic anti-cancer treatments, and targeted treatment of liver metastases. Wolin's research is also directed at development of new imaging and diagnostic procedures for carcinoid/neuroendocrine tumors.
"Dr. Wolin is renowned for his skill in treating these complex forms of cancer, and we are thrilled to bring his expertise to our patients here in Kentucky," said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. "Through his clinical trials, many patients will be able to receive extremely specialized care that they couldn't get anywhere else in the country."
Wolin earned his medical degree at Yale University School of Medicine. He performed his internship, residency and a medical oncology fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center followed by a clinical fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to coming to Markey, he served as co-director of the Cedars-Sinai Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine Tumor Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Wolin sees patients in the Multidisciplinary Clinic on the first floor of the UK Markey Cancer Center's Whitney-Hendrickson building. To make an appointment, call 859-257-4488 or toll free 866-340-4488.
MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Perry, (859) 323-2399 or firstname.lastname@example.org
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 15, 2014) – A new study by University of Kentucky researchers has identified a novel molecule named Arylquin 1 as a potent inducer of Par-4 secretion from normal cells. Par-4 is a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor, killing cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
Normal cells secrete small amounts of Par-4 on their own, but this amount is not enough to kill cancer cells. Notably, if Par-4 secretion is suppressed, this leads to tumor growth.
Published in "Nature Chemical Biology," the UK study utilized lab cultures and animal models to show that low levels of Arylquin 1 induced Par-4 secretion without causing harm to the producer cells.
Additionally, researchers found that Par-4 is bound to a protein called vimentin, which contributes to tumor metastasis. Arylquin 1 binds to vimentin, displacing the Par-4 for secretion -- which means it may also be useful for inhibitiing the spread of cancer.
These findings have strong implications for the development of future cancer treatments, as researchers are now focusing on developing Arylquin 1 into a drug to inhibit both primary and metastatic tumors.
"We found that Par-4 is inactivated by pro-metastasis proteins such as vimentin," said Vivek Rangnekar, UK professor and Alfred Cohen Chair in Oncology Research in the Department of Radiation Medicine. "This implies that by using small molecule drugs that target metastasis proteins, we may be able to both inhibit the spread of cancer while also releasing the tumor suppressor -- Par-4 -- to then induce the death of the cancerous cells."
Rangnekar, who also serves as associate director for the UK Markey Cancer Center, initially discovered the Par-4 gene in 1994. Working closely with UK medicinal chemist David Watt and a multidisciplinary team across the UK campus, their labs are developing secretagogues that can cause elevated secretion of Par-4 for the inhibition of primary and metastatic tumors.
This study was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the National Center for Research Resources, and the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 15, 2014) -- Did you know that you can help others by participating in research? Health-focused research affects every aspect of our lives, from the medications we take to the health of our environment. Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve the health of our communities, but research needs healthy volunteers and volunteers with medical conditions in order to succeed. Participating in research is a safe, easy way for you to give back to your community and give hope for the future while learning more about your own health.
Find out how you can participate in research during the University of Kentucky's next #AskACat Twitter chat, beginning 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at @universityofky. UK researchers will answer general questions about participating in research. They will also answer questions about ResearchMatch, a registry that pairs volunteers with researchers looking for participants, and UK's new Research Registry and Specimen Bank, or the "biobank." For more information on ResearchMatch, visit www.researchmatch.org/?rm=@AskaCat.
UK patients are being invited to help researchers by allowing leftover blood and tissue from their normal medical procedures to put into the biobank. For example, when a patient undergoes a blood draw or tissue biopsy, the blood or tissue that isn’t used for testing is normally thrown away. In the new biobank project, however, patients will be given a consent form to allow any “leftover” blood or tissue from their regular medical procedures to be stored in the biobank for research purposes. No additional procedures will be performed or extra blood or tissues collected whatsoever. Participation is voluntary, and to protect patient privacy, all identifying information (such as name, address and social security numbers) will be removed from the samples and corresponding medical records.
Four UK experts will respond to questions during the chat:
· Belinda Smith, education specialist at the Office of Research Integrity;
· Ada Sue Selwitz, director of the Office of Research Integrity;
· Dr. Susanne Arnold, associate professor in medical oncology and radiation medicine and associate director for clinical translation at the Markey Cancer Center; and
· Dr. Phil Kern, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center.
Join the conversation or follow the chat at the university's official account @universityofky, or use the hashtag #AskACat for questions and responses from the Twitter chat.
Individuals interested in asking questions about participation in health care research, ResearchMatch, or the biobank can send their questions to twitter.com/universityofky through 3 p.m. Sept. 16, or to the UK Facebook page prior to 2 p.m., Sept. 16. Responses to questions will be shared with the university's Twitter followers and those following the hashtag #AskACat.
UK will present its next #AskACat Twitter chat Oct. 21.
MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale or Elizabeth Adams, 859-257-1754
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 3, 2014) – Hardin Memorial Health celebrated a new affiliation between its Cancer Care Center and the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, the state's first and only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
"The Markey affiliate agreement provides a great opportunity for professional education and training for our staff and physicians," said Hardin Memorial Health President Dennis Johnson. "Collaboration with Markey and their affiliates across the state allows our team to stay up-to-date on the newest cancer treatments and research."
"There is no reason for cancer patients in central Kentucky to leave this area to seek treatment, because the HMH Cancer Care Center provides personalized cancer care close to home," said Dr. Adam Lye, medical director of the Hardin Memorial Health Cancer Care Center. "This care can be enhanced when combined with Markey's specialized treatment, technology and clinical trial opportunities that will help us take cancer care to the next level. This is great news for cancer patients and their families in our community."
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 joining the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network, the HMH Cancer Care Center will be able to offer their patients access to additional specialty and subspecialty physicians and care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay closer to home 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 health care.
"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."
Markey is one of only 68 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 Markey Cancer Center is working toward the next tier of designation – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 41 of the 68 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status. The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a large 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. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. "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 comprises eleven hospitals across the state of Kentucky:
Evaluations are under way for several other hospitals, including two more outside the state of Kentucky, extending Markey's reach and establishing it as the destination cancer center for the region.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 19, 2014) – A new web-based program developed by University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center researchers will provide a simple, free way for healthcare providers to determine which brain tumor cases require testing for a genetic mutation.
Gliomas – a type of tumor that begins in the brain or spine – are the most common and deadly form of brain cancer in adults, making up about 80 percent of malignant brain cancer cases. In some of these cases, patients have a mutation in a specific gene, known as an IDH1 mutation – and patients who have this tend to survive years longer than those who do not carry the mutation.
Developed by UK researchers Li Chen, Eric Durbin, and Craig Horbinski in collaboration with software architect Isaac Hands of the UK Markey Cancer Center Cancer Research Informatics Shared Research Facility, the program uses a statistical model to accurately predict the likelihood that a patient carries the IDH1 mutation and requires screening.
Gliomas are often tested for IDH1 mutation following surgery to remove the tumor, but undergoing this type of testing often requires stringent insurance pre-approvals due to rising healthcare costs, Horbinski says.
"Currently, there are no universally accepted guidelines for when gliomas should be tested for this mutation," Horbinski said. "Obtaining insurance pre-approval for additional molecular testing is becoming more commonplace, and this program will assist healthcare providers with an evidence-based rationale for when IDH1 screening is necessary."
Additionally, Horbinski notes that the program will help conserve research dollars by helping brain cancer researchers narrow down which specific older gliomas in tumor banks – previously removed in a time before IDH1 testing was routine – should be tested as data for research projects.
Horbinski's research on the program was published in the May issue of Neuro-Oncology. The work was funded through a grant from the National Cancer Institute, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Training Program in Translational Clinical Oncology, and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Physician Scientist Program.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 13, 2014) – Becker’s Hospital Review magazine has listed the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital among the nation’s “100 Hospitals and Health Systems with Great Oncology Programs” in its recently released compilation of leading cancer care providers in the United States. The UK Markey Cancer Center, whose clinical programs are integrated with Chandler, received a National Cancer Institute cancer center designation in July 2013.
According to the health care industry trade publication, organizations included on the 2014 list are “leading the way in terms of quality of patient care, patient outcomes and research.” Becker’s noted Markey's recent NCI designation, its 29 percent patient growth over the past five years, and its status as a Blue Distinction Center for Complex and Rare Cancers for 10 cancer types.
The Becker's Hospital Review editorial team selected hospitals for inclusion based on rankings and awards they have received from a variety of reputable sources. The following awards were considered as part of the criteria for inclusion on the list: U.S. News & World Report cancer rankings, Truven Health Analytics, CareChex cancer care rankings, National Cancer Institute designations, the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer accreditations, American Nurses Credentialing Center designations, and awards and Blue Distinction Center recognition from the BlueCross BlueShield Association.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 30, 2014) – As part of a weeklong tour across the state, the Smoke-Free Kentucky Coalition will be making a stop at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center today at 11 a.m. to promote better health for Kentuckians through smoke-free policies. The event at Markey is one of several stops across the state as it heads to western Kentucky for the annual Fancy Farm Picnic.
At each stop, the Smoke-Free Coalition is rallying supporters and reaching out to legislators, urging them to join 24 other states in passing a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law that covers all indoor workplaces and public places, including bars and restaurants. The goal of the tour is to get all Kentuckians, around the state, active and engaged in supporting smoke-free policy as the campaign gears up for the 2015 legislative session.
Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, almost 70 of which are known to cause cancer, and is proven to cause heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory illnesses and even premature death. In fact, studies indicate that secondhand smoke exposure causes about 1,000 deaths a year in Kentucky.
To find out more information about how smoke-free policies are good for health and businesses visit: www.smokefreekentucky.org
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 30, 2014) — The phrase "we caught it early" is possibly the best news a patient can hear in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. Combating cancer in its earliest stages, when the disease is localized to a certain part of the body, gives patients the best chances of survival.
Screenings for breast, skin, colon, prostate and other forms of cancer are touted for saving lives through early detection. Many health care providers recommend cancer screenings as a precautionary measure, especially for high-risk patients. But in the case of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, the patient's decision to undergo a screening process is more complex.
According to University of Kentucky psychologist Dr. Jamie Studts, lung cancer screening is an algorithm, not an event. Patients aren't always aware of the physical and psychological consequences of the lung cancer screening process, which can lead to false positive results, invasive biopsy procedures, harmful radiation exposure and anxiety caused by an ongoing process.
Studts, a researcher in the UK Department of Behavioral Science and the Cancer Prevention and Control Program of the Markey Cancer Center, is working to develop an online tool that will help individuals at high risk for lung cancer navigate the lung cancer screening decision-making process. He said the decision to undergo lung cancer screening should be well-informed and aligned with the patient's personal values. Studts is collaborating with Dr. Margaret Byrne, a health economist and medical decision-making researcher at the University of Miami, on this project, which is funded by a grant awarded from the National Cancer Institute.
"Screening is for asymptomatic, healthy people to find out there's something wrong," Studts said. "You are committing to a series of events that will lead to either learning you don’t have cancer, or detecting and treating it."
A number of factors, including the Affordable Care Act's provision of accessibility to cancer screening services and results from a 2011 National Lung Screening Trial conducted by the National Cancer Institute, have reinvigorated the public's interest in lung cancer screening. The National Lung Screening Trial reported a 20 percent relative reduction in mortality for high-risk individuals who received a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans. But the report also identified substantial risks and limitations to lung cancer screenings, which included overdiagnosis and relatively high false positive rates. The rate of false positive occurrence in the study of a high-risk population was 39 percent. With high rates of false positive scans and ongoing follow-up treatment, Studts said widespread lung cancer screening could be a costly burden for government-funded health care but could also prevent very expensive treatments for late stage lung cancer.
Studts and his fellow researchers have proposed a decision-making aid that is designed to accomplish three objectives: disperse knowledge, empower the patient and clarify individual's values. The aid will present accurate information about the screening process and calculate feedback that's tailored to the individual. The tool will also empower the individual to discuss the decision with their health care provider by providing a prompt list of potential questions. Finally, the values clarification component of the tool will explore the patient's personal preferences regarding the lung cancer screening process. For instance, if a patient is ultimately unwilling to undergo surgery for a lung biopsy, the tool can determine that they will likely experience minimal benefit from a screening.
"The goal is to help people interpret what they learn in the context of what’s important to them regarding their goals in health," Studts said. "They will learn about lung cancer screening options, benefits, harms and uncertainties associated with the modality.”
To develop the provider education program, Studts has collaborated with a team of University of Kentucky experts, including Dr. Eric Bendsadoun, a pulmonologist and director of the lung cancer screening program; Dr. Susanne Arnold, a medical oncologist who is part of the multidisciplinary lung cancer screening program; Dr. Michael Brooks, a cardiothoracic radiologist; Dr. Mark Dignan, a cancer prevention and control researcher; Dr. Eric Durbin, a cancer research informatics expert; and Dr. Brent Shelton, a cancer biostatistician.
The next step in their research will be conducting a clinical trial to test the decision-making aid among high-risk individuals, or high pack-year smokers, in Florida and Kentucky. Recently, Studts, along with Dr. Tim Mullet, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UK, received funding from the Kentucky Lung Cancer Research Program to develop an online continuing education program geared toward educating health care providers about lung cancer screening and how to discuss the lung cancer screening question with their patients. Eventually, he envisions dispersing a comprehensive educational toolkit on lung cancer screening to clinics and hospitals.
Studts said the current research suggests that lung cancer screening has minimal benefits for individuals younger than 55. Still, many Americans with a history of high pack-year smoking will face the decision of whether to be screened for cancer in their lifetime. Studts believes it will be helpful to implement an online tool that will help guide members of the high-risk population through a decision-making process.
"We’re interested in delivering high quality patient centered care – helping people be engaged in their health care choices and helping health care providers engage in these choices too."
MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams, email@example.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 6, 2014) – The Louisville Ironman – a triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim in the Ohio River, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run – is a competition that would test even the toughest of wills.
But for University of Kentucky radiation oncologist Dr. Jonathan Feddock, the competition is about more than achieving a personal goal – Feddock, an accomplished triathlete, is using his athletic talents to help provide better care for the cancer patients he treats. When he competes in the Aug. 24 Ironman, he'll be doing so to raise money to pay for renovations and updates to the brachytherapy program at the UK Markey Cancer Center.
Brachytherapy is a specific form of radiation treatment where radiation sources are placed inside or close to the area requiring treatment.
”The main benefit to using brachytherapy for the treatment of cancer is that this is the only method of radiation treatment where we can make radiation appear exactly where we want to," said Feddock. "If your goal is to treat a tumor with curative doses of radiation and not treat the normal parts of the body immediately next to it, then brachytherapy is the best option.”
The total estimated cost for the brachytherapy project is approximately $1.2 million dollars, and Feddock has a specific goal to reach – he is trying to raise $200,000, with the remaining $1 million to be matched through the University, independent philanthropists, and department funds. The proposed changes would consolidate all areas involving brachytherapy, including moving the implant procedure room and the radiation treatment room into a combined space, and upgrading the current brachytherapy equipment.
Brachytherapy treatment is commonly used to treat most gynecologic cancers, as well as malignancies of the breast, prostate, and skin. Under Feddock’s leadership, the radiation medicine department has developed a niche practice that uses brachytherapy for recurrent tumors in patients who have previously received radiation. As a result, UK sees patients from all over the country.
Unfortunately, Kentucky holds the distinction of having some of the highest cancer rates in the country – including being No. 8 in the U.S. for cervical cancer incidence. The availability of brachytherapy in the state is limited, and as a result, Markey provides brachytherapy services for essentially all patients coming from central, eastern and southern Kentucky.
Currently, Markey patients receive their brachytherapy implants in the Ben F. Roach Building, but have to be transported down a long hallway to the radiation treatment room in the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital. Because the radiation therapy treatment and recovery rooms require a shielded vault, consolidation is not an easy process.
However, Feddock points out, the renovations will improve staff efficiency and the overall patient experience, in addition to allowing his team to see even more patients per day.
"Currently, the setup and logistics of brachytherapy treatment limit me to no more than two cases a day," Feddock said. "As our patient population grows, there's a real need to streamline the process so we can see more patients. I believe the proposed changes would allow me to treat three to four patients a day."
Feddock is determined to reach his goal, and he's even implemented a clever strategy to bring in donations. After speaking with members of the World Triathlon Corporation, he has been given special permission to begin the Ironman in Louisville this year in last place – and he's encouraging donors to "bet against him" by pledging a small amount for every single person he passes in the race. With close to 3,000 competitors ahead of him, that's a lot of potential donations.
The plan becomes more impressive when you look at his track record: in 2011, Feddock finished 30th in the Ironman; in 2013, he finished 17th.
”While I'm approaching some corporate sponsors and individual philanthropists about making larger donations, I think crowdfunding is the key here," Feddock said. "Every single dollar helps, and if a lot of different people contribute just a small amount, it will add up. By pledging even a small donation, you'll be making a huge impact on cancer care for women and men across Kentucky."
Dr. Marcus Randall, chair of the Department of Radiation Medicine, says his team fully supports Feddock's undertaking.
“Dr. Feddock’s commitment to his patients and to UK HealthCare is inspirational to us all," Randall said. "The department is strongly supporting Dr. Feddock, which shows that we truly have 'skin in the game' when it comes to giving our patients the best treatment possible.”
To support Feddock's mission and improve patient care at the UK Markey Cancer Center, visit his personal fundraising page, Ironcology.net for details on how to donate. All donations are processed through the Markey Cancer Foundation.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 24, 2014) – Eastern Kentucky faces some of the highest rates of cancer incidence and mortality in the nation, but two hospitals in the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) system are stepping up the fight against cancer. Williamson ARH Hospital in South Williamson, Ky. and Harlan ARH Hospital have announced a new affiliation with the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, the state's first and only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
"ARH is consistently working to build a new level of health care for the people we serve in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia by providing our communities local access to some of the most advanced health care services," said ARH President and CEO Joe Grossman. "This affiliation with the UK Markey Cancer Center will further enhance the services provided in Williamson and Harlan and will help us ensure our residents receive only the best oncology care right here at home in conjunction with a team of nationally recognized medical professionals."
"We are so pleased to announce our affiliation with the Markey Cancer Center, and we believe this new relationship will allow us to provide better care for our patients," said Dr. Walid Baz, medical director of hematology and oncology services for Williamson ARH Hospital. "Most cancer patients require multimodal therapy including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and psychosocial therapy. Working together will enable the medical staff to leverage their collective experience, and that experience combined with Markey's specialized treatment, technology and clinical trial opportunities will help us take cancer care to the next level. This is great news for cancer patients and their families in our community."
The ARH hospital system is the largest provider of health care in southeastern Kentucky. By joining the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network, Williamson ARH Hospital and Harlan ARH Hospital will be able to offer their patients access to additional specialty and subspecialty physicians and care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay in southeastern 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 health care.
"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."
Moving forward, the Markey Cancer Center is working toward the next tier of designation – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 41 of the 68 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status. The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a large role in bringing that next level of cancer funding to Kentucky. Maintaining and increasing focus on cancer prevention, care, and research in Appalachian Kentucky will remain a top priority for the cancer center.
"The burden of cancer in Kentucky is huge, particularly in Eastern Kentucky," said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. "That's why I am thrilled to have Williamson and Harlan join the Markey Affiliate Network. By working together, we have the potential to make a serious impact on cancer care in the part of the state that needs it the most."
The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network began in 2006 and includes 11 hospitals across the state of Kentucky:
Evaluations are under way for four other hospitals, including two more outside the state of Kentucky, extending Markey's reach and establishing it as the destination cancer center for the region.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 23, 2014) — Good nutrition is critical during cancer treatment, but side effects of chemotherapy and radiation can often cause patients to lose their appetites at a time when they need sustenance the most.
As a registered dietitian at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, Rachel Miller does all she can to help patients get the nutrition and calories they need.
"A lot of patients have trouble with weight loss and decreased appetite while they're going through various treatments," Miller said. "One of the things that's hardest to do when you don't feel like eating is getting that nutrition you need."
Much of Miller's time at Markey involves one-on-one counseling. She sees patients throughout the process of their treatment, provides them with nutrition education, and in some cases, assists patients with setting up their tube feeding.
In addition to the individual consults, Miller also tries to provide a more tangible example of healthy eating during cancer treatment. On the fourth Wednesday of each month, she hosts a smoothie demonstration in the Whitney-Hendrickson Building. The demonstrations are open to everyone at Markey, including patients, families and medical providers.
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Smoothies are an ideal way to boost nutritional value in a small volume of food, Miller said. Adding in healthy fats (for example, coconut milk) serves to improve the taste of the drink as well as pack in much-needed extra calories.
"Sometimes it's difficult to eat a full meal," Miller said. "So trying to fortify what you're eating, although it's a small amount, is one of the things I think is helpful to teach patients to do at home."
During the monthly demonstration, Miller tries to incorporate a variety of foods into the smoothies, testing out different tastes and textures. A common side effect of chemotherapy is a change in taste — many patients report a "metallic" taste in the mouth — so using strong flavors can be helpful in making the meal more appealing. As she prepares the drink, Miller talks her audience through the process, explaining the health and taste benefits of each ingredient.
Though she has regular medical staff who attend, her audience is often filled with families and friends of patients who are waiting for their loved one to complete an appointment or treatment. In addition to giving them information that will help them provide for their loved ones at home, Miller hopes the demonstrations also add a little levity to their day.
"I think the demonstrations have been very helpful," Miller said. "People have a lot of questions. It's easier to see and watch someone else do it, and then be able to implement that in your own home. I think it's also convenient, because a lot of patients have long days here so it can be a fun little break while you're waiting."
Smoothie demonstrations are offered on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. in the Psych-Oncology Services office, third floor, Whitney-Hendrickson Building. Miller also periodically partners with local chefs to host food demonstrations for patients and families.
For more information on good nutrition during cancer treatment, visit Miller's blog: the Markey Menu.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 15, 2014) — A new study by University of Kentucky researchers shows how a genetic defect in a specific hormonal pathway may make people more susceptible to developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Fair-skinned people who tend to burn (rather than tan) from sun exposure have a much higher risk for melanoma than darker-skinned people. On the surface, it appears that the amount of melanin, the natural substance in the skin that determines pigment and acts as the skin's "natural sunscreen," would be the only determinant of melanoma risk. However, the truth is more complicated.
Published in Molecular Cell, the study looked at the role of the melanocortin1 receptor (MC1R), the receptor on melanocytes in the skin that gets called into action following ultraviolet exposure to help the skin lay down more UV-blocking melanin to protect itself. Fair-skinned people are more likely to inherit a defect in this receptor, and as a result, cannot make enough melanin to fully protect themselves from UV damage.
Since UV from sunlight or tanning beds is a major cause of melanoma, inherited problems in the MC1R means that the skin lacks natural protection by melanin, which acts as a biologic sunblock. This leads to more UV light chronically getting through to the sensitive layers of the epidermis, where it can contribute to cancer.
However, the UK study showed that MC1R defects contribute to melanoma development in ways other than melanin production. Besides regulating the amount of melanin that gets made in the skin, MC1R also controls how well melanocytes can repair their DNA from UV damage. Having defects in MC1R signaling delays the body's ability to clear out existing DNA damage in the skin – leading to an increased potential for cancerous mutations.
“Knowing whether people have a specific genetic predisposition for melanoma could potentially save many lives”, says Dr. John D'Orazio, Associate Professor and the Drury Pediatric Research Endowed Chair at UK’s Markey Cancer Center. “If you happen to be born with a problem in this MC1R hormonal pathway, then you need to be extra careful with respect to UV safety.”
A good indication of a person’s MC1R status is what happens to the skin after sun exposure.
“If you tan well, then your MC1R probably works well,” D'Orazio said. “If you tend to burn, then you may have inherited a problem with your MC1R, and you probably should avoid purposeful UV exposure like tanning bed use or unprotected sun exposure."
D’Orazio and his research team found an important molecular link between MC1R signaling and DNA repair in their study. The team hopes to use this information to develop new melanoma-preventive treatments, like additives that can be included in sunblocks to ramp up the skin’s ability to deal with UV damage.
Melanoma incidence has increased steadily over the past few decades – in the 1930s, an estimated one in every 1,500 Americans developed the diseases. Today, the odds are about one in every 60. Having a problem with the MC1R pathway raises a person’s lifetime risk of melanoma about four-fold.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 11, 2014) — A year ago, a crowd of hundreds gathered in Pavilion A of the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital to celebrate a long-awaited special announcement – the unveiling of the UK Markey Cancer Center as the state's first and only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
The designation was the culmination of years of tireless work by the faculty and staff of Markey and its supporting service lines and colleges – all guided by Director Dr. Mark Evers, who came to UK in 2009 with the vision of propelling Markey to NCI designation.
"Even before earning the NCI designation, we'd already taken extraordinary steps in the past few years in terms of combating cancer incidence and mortality through preventative measures, treatments and research," Evers said. "But having the support and approval of the NCI has already made a huge impact in terms of both research and our clinical care."
Patient Care at Markey
As the word spread about Markey's NCI designation, clinicians and staff experienced an increase in the patient population in almost every clinical area. In 2014, Markey saw nearly 150 more new patients over the previous year, with total patient visits increasing from roughly 75,000 last year to more than 85,000 this year – which also marks a 29 percent increase in patient visits compared to just five years ago.
In particular, Markey's outpatient clinics are growing -- the Comprehensive Breast Care Center, the Multi-Disciplinary Clinic, and the Gynecology-Oncology Clinic saw unique patient growth of 29 percent, 10 percent, and 5 percent, respectively, over the past year.
With such an increase in patient volume – and variety – Evers and his team have also stepped up recruitment, seeking out the best cancer specialists in their fields to join the Markey Cancer Center. Markey's already vast team of specialists now includes a bevy of new team members added in the past year, including four medical oncologists; three hematology and blood and marrow transplantation specialists; three surgical oncologists; two genitourinary cancer surgeons; two oral and maxillofacial surgeons; and a specialist in oncofertility, a new program starting up at the cancer center.
Recruiting strong researchers is a major aspect of earning and maintaining an NCI designation, and this year Markey landed a major established research team in metabolomics. Rick Higashi, Hunter Moseley, Teresa Fan, and Andrew Lane joined Markey last fall, bringing with them more than $18 million dollars in funding. One of the major focuses of the team's work is to develop early diagnostic approaches for lung cancer based on metabolism markers, which is especially important in Kentucky, where we own the distinction of having the worst rates of lung cancer incidence and death in the country.
Over the past two years, Markey has increased its funding from the NCI by 27 percent and from other National Institutes of Health divisions by 16 percent. Overall, since the end of calendar year 2012, Markey's total research funding from both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources has increased by $7.3 million.
Additionally, Markey researchers continue to push major findings out to their peers in academia – in 2014, Markey authors published 528 scientific articles, 49 more than the previous year.
Moving forward, Evers notes that his team will continue to seek out new clinician-scientists who have experience in clinical trials and early phase drug development, with the goal of significantly increasing the number of patients who participate in trials. Another emerging field of research for Markey is molecular epidemiology, the study of potential genetic and environmental risk factors for disease identified at the molecular level, which has the potential for great impact in Appalachia.
Markey's Reach Across the State
Though based in Lexington, Markey also strives to provide access to top-notch cancer care across the state and beyond through the Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network. The Affiliate Network is a group of healthcare facilities that provide high-quality cancer services and programs in their communities with the support and guidance of the UK Markey Cancer Center, allowing patients to receive their care closer to home.
Currently, the network comprises nine hospitals across the state of Kentucky:
Since Markey earned the NCI designation, demand for new affiliations has grown. Two new ARH hospitals will be added this summer, moving Markey further into Eastern Kentucky, an underserved area known for some of the worst rates of cancer incidence and death in the country. Additionally, evaluations are under way for seven other hospitals, including two outside the state of Kentucky, extending Markey's reach further and establishing it as the destination cancer center for the region.
The Future of Cancer Care in Kentucky
Following last year's announcement of Markey's NCI designation, Evers joked with his staff that they had one day to celebrate – and the next day, they'd be back in full swing, ready to propel Markey to the next level of designation: an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 41 of the 68 total NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status.
To earn this top level of designation, cancer centers must show a depth and breadth of research in each of three major areas: laboratory, clinical, and population-based research, as well as substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges these scientific areas. Additionally, outreach is especially important, and comprehensive cancer centers must demonstrate professional and public education and outreach capabilities, including the dissemination of clinical and public health advances in the communities it serves.
NCI designations are renewable every five years, and Evers hopes that Markey's next application will be for comprehensive status. To reach that level, Markey has a long to-do list, including increasing cancer-related funding, accruing more patients into clinical trials (including pushing these trials out into the state via the affiliate network), and maintaining and increasing focus on Appalachian Kentucky.
"Our progress in the past year has been spectacular, but we can – and should – do more," Evers said. "As the only NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky, it's our responsibility to be the leader in cancer care and to always seek out new ways to improve rates of cancer incidence and death in the state, and to make sure that we can also offer the best possible care for our patients right here in Kentucky. Earning a comprehensive cancer center designation from the NCI will be another big step in that direction."
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 1, 2014) – UK HealthCare has been recognized by America’s Essential Hospitals for a patient safety initiative that has resulted in a significant decrease in mortality at the hospital compared with the general population.
America's Essential Hospitals, a national organization representing hospitals committed to high-quality care for all people, including the vulnerable, awarded UK HealthCare a 2014 Gage Award honorable mention for improving quality. The association made the award June 26, at its annual conference, in San Antonio.
“UK HealthCare’s patient safety initiative stands out among the innovative approaches our hospitals take to avoid harm and improve the quality of care,” said America’s Essential Hospitals President and CEO Dr. Bruce Siegel.
The Gage Awards, named after association founder Larry Gage, honor and share successful and creative programs that improve patient care and meet community needs. The Gage Award for improving quality recognizes activities that improve the quality of care delivered, or reduce or eliminate harmful events to individual patients or groups of patients.
"UK HealthCare is continuously working to improve, driven by our high standards and our commitment to serve the people of the Commonwealth and beyond and the Gage Award represents national recognition of this work," said UK HealthCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bernard Boulanger. "It is recognition of our team’s relentless, rigorous approach to improving patient care, in a manner that directly benefits our patients"
UK HealthCare received the award for the development of an internal process called SWARMING to help the hospital improve overall patient safety. A SWARM is initiated shortly after the occurrence of an adverse incident or undesirable event, and the people directly involved are empowered to "stop the line" when they observe a problem. Since instituting SWARMs in 2009, the hospital has experienced an overall reduction in the observed to expected mortality ratio from 1.5 to 0.7, as reported in December 2013.
"The SWARM process has been a remarkable and successful team effort throughout the UK HealthCare enterprise and everyone should be commended for their role in what has become one of our best tools in improving patient safety," said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. "This award is another example of our commitment to excellence in patient care and patient safety and in keeping our promise to Kentuckians that they can get the very best care right here regardless of the complexity or care needed."
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