por Loren Bonner
, DOTmed News Online Editor | September 20, 2013
From the September 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
You’ve been a faculty member at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Department of Radiation Oncology since 1987. How have you seen the practice change since then?
It’s changed on so many levels. On a very positive level are the advances in technology. Today, our ability to deliver radiation and protect the normal organs is light years ahead of when I was trained (and yet we did pretty well back then). But not in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that in my career I would have seen all the changes we’ve seen in the technology. These changes have been helpful in not only curing more cancer but just as important in increasing the quality of life of our patients.
What are some of the things that excite you most about the field of radiation oncology going forward?
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I think it’s the results we have. I’m very involved in clinical trials and asking scientific questions to try to better the overall survival for our patients, in other words, curing more cancer patients. Improving their quality of life is just as important and I am very excited about the opportunity to do more work in the area of quality of life. Each of these steps in curing more cancer and improving quality of life are critically important for our patients.
It sounds like this also aligns well with the direction the health care system is moving toward?
Obviously the health care system is changing dramatically and there are a lot of challenges for radiation oncologists. Going forward there are challenges in what the health care system will or will not let us do with some of the newest technology. It’s really up to us to design good clinical trials to help us move forward with the technology. At the same time, some of these things can’t be answered by clinical trials as they can take years to get answers. By that time, everyone has moved on. It’s very tough, but our work in the registry effort will help to answer some of what cannot be answered by clinical trials.
How have you tried to address some of these challenges as president of ASTRO?
If we’re talking about quality of life, I’m involved in clinical trials through RTOG [Radiation Therapy Oncology Group] and those clinical trials address quality of life in addition to quantity of life. So I have that as part of my repertoire apart from ASTRO. But within ASTRO, we are pushing hard to develop clinical guidelines and best practices, which will improve quality of life for all patients because everyone will have access to that information. A good example is our first practice guideline highlighted at the meeting. It’s a joint effort between ASTRO and the American Urological Association. The guideline was developed by leaders in both groups working together. It addresses what the next steps are: patients who have had surgery for prostate cancer where either the cancer went beyond the capsule of the prostate or the PSA rose afterward. The leaders went through all of the science for these scenarios and came up with this guideline, which is an outstanding piece of work. This is the kind of work that we need societies to collaborate on in a multidisciplinary way to provide the best care for our patients.