Treating cancer and easing the symptoms of the disease is an area of scientific research that has recently seen breakthroughs and is primed for even more innovation – some of which is happening right here in Western New York.
The Lipson Cancer Institute at Rochester Regional Health has a strong history of national cancer research leadership – dating back to the 1960’s when we participated in the first United States government-funded cancer research trials in community hospitals. To celebrate National Cancer Research Month, we asked Dr. Peter Bushunow, Medical Oncologist and Director of Oncology Research at the Lipson Cancer Institute about our proud legacy of contributing to cancer treatment breakthroughs and what we can expect to see in the future.
“Dating back to the 1960’s, Rochester General Hospital was among the first community hospitals to participate in major government-funded studies,” shared Dr. Bushunow. “We were one of the charter members of a consortium of community hospitals looking for new ways to better care for cancer patients.”
That dedication to innovation led to our participation in major breakthroughs, including studies that led to standard treatments used nationally including:
Today, we conduct research by participating in cooperative group studies with academic centers like the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and by partnering directly with pharmaceutical and device companies. We also have many investigator-initiated studies underway.
“Our doctors are naturally curious about finding new ways that they can improve care for their patients,” said Dr. Bushunow. “An investigator-led study starts with a question – how can I improve care for these patients? then we work with our research team to do just that.”
All of the medical oncologists in the Lipson Cancer Institute are trained as clinical investigators and credentialed as part of the National Cancer Institute. In addition to investigator-led studies, we have more than 20 clinical trials underway at both Rochester General Hospital and Unity Hospital.
In the last ten years, there has been an explosion of new approaches for treating cancer and the symptoms that patients often experience while under traditional treatments.
“Immunotherapy medications have been a game-changer for many types of cancer, especially melanoma and kidney cancers,” explained Dr. Bushunow. “These treatments are now being used for lung, breast and colon cancer and we currently have four active studies in the Lipson Cancer Institute looking at new ways to use immunotherapies.”
Another major advance has been the use of targeted therapies – medications that are directed to attack a specific cancerous mutation. We’re participating in several trials, including the MATCH study, to see what the different mutations of cancer are and how specific drugs can affect those mutations, regardless of tumor site.
CAR-T therapy, bone marrow transplant and other adoptive therapies will also become more standard in the future. Driving the groundbreaking use of these therapies in our system is Dr. Anne S. Renteria who helped the Lipson Cancer Institute recently launch our new Acute Leukemia & Malignant Hematology Program and is also driving the development of our new Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program.
“We all have much to be excited about for both innovations in cancer treatments as well as making those treatments easier for people with new tools like the IORT program for breast cancer and symptom management for people undergoing treatment,” said Dr. Bushunow. “I’m looking forward to what the next ten years will bring us as we look to improve not only the outcomes but experiences that our patients have.”
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