Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 11/13/2019 --World-renowned cancer researcher, author, and teacher, Robert Weinberg, Ph.D., calls healthcare delivery in Utah, "extraordinary" and credits Intermountain Healthcare as a model health system when it comes to cancer care.
The praise came during Dr. Weinberg's opening remarks at a special community event at Intermountain Medical Center, "The Art of Healing: Advancing the Cure for Cancer," where he discussed the progress made to date in cancer research and cancer care.
Dr. Weinberg is the director of the Ludwig Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is most widely known for his discoveries of the first human oncogene – a gene that when mutated (abnormal DNA), acts like a stuck "accelerator" pedal causing normal cells to form tumors. He also discovered the first tumor suppressor gene that acts like a broken "brake" on cancer growth.
Addressing patients, caregivers and local residents, Dr. Weinberger asked and answered the question, "How are we doing on the war on cancer?"
"Cancer is largely a disease of older people," said Dr. Weinberg. "Cancer happens as an inevitable consequence of the chaos that happens inside our bodies as we get older and older."
He noted there's been a decrease in some cancers, such as stomach, uterine, and colon. He credits the decrease due to the improvements in food preservation, more cancer screenings, changes in lifestyle factors, and development of new "miracle" drugs.
Dr. Weinberg specifically talked about the wins against cancer.
"Breast cancer mortality (deaths) has gone down by 35-40 percent over the last two and half decades and that's a real win. That's a real homerun, it's undeniable," he said.
Another win, according to Dr. Weinberg is the development of new molecular treatment of cancer, such as new drug called "imatinib" designed specifically for the chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a disease where the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells.
In the late 60's and 70's people diagnosed with CML passed away within years of the diagnosis, but according to Dr. Weinberg, "because of this new medicine, CML has been reduced to a chronic disease. People can live with CML for 20 to 25 years. Living with a disease that previously would have killed them within 3-5 year's time. And that's also another homerun."
After development of imatinib, Dr. Weinberg said people thought if this kind of therapy can work for CML it should work with a lot of other types of cancers.
"Lots of other types of cancer drugs have been developed, but the problem is they don't always behave the same way," said Dr. Weinberg. "The target often changes in shape and is no longer shut down by the initially designed drug, and that's a tragedy, because the tumor as a whole is no longer responsive and roars back and becomes truly life threatening."
Attendees also learned from Lincoln Nadauld, MD, Ph.D., executive director of Intermountain Healthcare's Precision Genomics Program, how the HerediGene Study, the world's largest study of the human genome from a single population (500,000) people, will positively impact the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and many other diseases affecting humanity. The study proposes to completely sequence 20,000 genes (3 billion DNA molecules from every participant), providing patients feedback on mutations in ~160 possibly inherited genes that could affect many generations to come. More than 150 people chose to sign the informed consent, roll up their sleeves, and donate two vials of blood to participate in the ground-breaking study.
The evening was a melding of science and art, as the Intermountain Medical Center halls were transformed to a gallery with photography, art from school-aged children, music, and even a painter sharing his talents.
As part of the event, Timothy Yeatman, MD, Executive Medical Director of the Intermountain Healthcare Cancer program announced the launching of a new service for patients called the "Intermountain Cancer Answers" hotline, in which patients with cancer or those concerned they may have cancer can call one phone number (833.321.3332) any time of the day or night (24/7) and talk to a nurse navigator who will guide patients through their treatment process and help them get "personalized cancer care---the right care, at the right time, in the right place – close to their home. Dr Yeatman also emphasized that cancer care is complex and every patient deserves a "second opinion" for which highly-skilled and trained Intermountain physicians are available.
The toll –free hotline was established to help patients because when you have cancer and need multiple treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy, there are advantages to receiving those treatments close to home. Reducing travel time means a lot when you're not feeling 100 percent, and so does staying near your support network of family and friends.
More than 5,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed and treated at Intermountain Healthcare facilities each year. Intermountain Healthcare is committed to, whenever possible, providing cancer care close to your home.
When patients choose an Intermountain facility, they have access to the overall cancer care team of experts, specialized cancer doctors, technology advances, (such as Precision Genomics), clinical trials and research available systemwide.
Intermountain Healthcare has Cancer Centers located from Logan to St. George. They are located at these 11 hospitals: Logan, McKay-Dee, Layton, LDS, Primary Children's, Intermountain Medical Center, Riverton, American Fork, Utah Valley, Cedar City, and St. George. Radiation is offered at nine of them.
Intermountain also has six Tele-Health locations for cancer: Cassia Regional Hospital; Teton Valley Hospital; Logan; IMC (Murray); Sevier Valley Hospital; St. George.
INTERMOUNTAIN CANCER CENTER "CANCER ANSWERS": 1-833-321-3332
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/ class="extlink" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener" title="intermountainhealthcare.org" href="https://intermountainhealthcare.org/">intermountainhealthcare.org.