Healthcare Internship Reflection | Cancer Center

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  • Crystal Mullen

Last month I received the privilege of being hired to work as a secretary for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. As the name implies their sole focus and overall market involves finding cures and treatments for cancer. In fact they operate on a very aggressive mission to completely eliminate cancer by integrating patient care, prevention, and research programs. Furthermore, MD Anderson provides education about cancer research, prevention, and treatment information that ranges from their graduate and undergraduate programs at the University of Texas to MD Anderson employees and even to the general public (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2014). Finally though not exhaustively, MD Anderson seeks to become and remain a world renowned cancer center through science, excellent people, and research-driven patient care. The motto for MD Anderson is “We are Making Cancer History (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2014).

One of the biggest surprises I learned when I began working for MD Anderson is that although their sole focus is eliminating cancer, that singular mission is has multiple areas of focus. This is because they have incomparable resources and a wealth of capabilities, MD Anderson is exceptionally qualified to increase the pace of transforming scientific discoveries regarding cancer into innovative clinical treatments and advances that lower the number of deaths due to cancer deaths. Their discoveries have lead MD Anderson to divide their work into six forms of cancer – otherwise known to them as “moon shots”. Along with those moon shots, MD Anderson focuses a great deal of science, research and patient care on Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancers listed in the moon shot program include breast and ovarian, Leukemia (ALM / MDS), Leukemia (CLL), Lung, Melanoma, and prostate. These six moon shots, along with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, will ultimately lead to cures for all types of cancer (Moon Shots Program, 2014).

BREAST AND OVARIAN

MD Anderson’s moon shot program for breast and ovarian cancer concentrates on triple-negative breast cancer and on high-grade serous ovarian cancer. These concentrations have resulted in exciting, innovative projects that often results in the quick detection and treatment of these deadly cancers. One aspect of the moon shot program for breast and ovarian cancer involves universal genetic testing. Patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer and high-grade serous ovarian cancer are provided genetic counseling and testing. Furthermore, MD Anderson reaches out to at risk family members to immediately identify individuals for preventive screening. Another aspect of the moon shot program for breast and ovarian cancer involves pinpointing genetic markers/mutations to discover how these cancers respond and then adapt to cancer treatments. This data will helps physicians develop individualized treatment plans for each of their patients. Finally though not exhaustively, a third aspect of the moon shot program for breast and ovarian cancer involves early detection. The cancer investigators for MD Anderson focus on biomarkers that appear promising to identify and study these cancers in their earliest stages to provide better treatment conclusions (Moon Shots – Breast and Ovarian, 2014).

LEUKEMIA (AML/MDS)

One of MD Anderson’s moon shot program for leukemia involves acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) leukemia. These two diseases are being combatted by tacking drug resistance, applying supercomputing, artificial intelligence, and AML targeted therapy such as blood stem cell transplants. First of all, AML/MDS Moon Shot strives to understand a class of drugs that form the molecular basis of drug resistance to find alternative therapies that circumvents this challenge. Furthermore, AML/MDS Moon Shot is developing a new, innovative system that takes advanced supercomputing technology and integrates this technology with individualized research data into a secure database. Advanced analytics, combined with the technology of IBM’s Watson, otherwise known as the world’s smartest computer, enables clinicians to collect new insights for patient care and research. Finally, though not exhaustively, the moon shot engages in another research option for AML / MDS involves blood stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy. This form of research has an excellent record of both improving the safety and impact of this form of treatment (Moon Shots Leukemia (AML/MDS), 2014).

LEUKEMIA (CLL)

Another one of MD Anderson’s moon shot program for leukemia involves chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), MD Anderson has made great progress in this against this form of cancer. Scientists and physicians has driven one this most common form of adult leukemia close to the brink of extinction. This has been accomplished by developing cutting edge drug therapies and taking immunotherapy to eliminate residual CLL. First of all, the CLL Moon Shot team is actively studying a breakthrough class of drugs that thwarts the critical signaling in the malignant cells. These experimental drugs have proven to be excellent at preventing CLL cells from signaling their dramatic effect on the leukemic cells while creating minimal impact on other healthy cells. Furthermore, there is an additional CLL moon shot is famous for developing immunotherapy techniques to locate and destroy the remaining CLL (Moon Shots: Leukemia (CLL), 2014).

LUNG

Lung cancer is the most pervasive impact on our population out of other cancers. Because of its massive spread throughout the U.S. population, MD Anderson lists lung cancer as one of their Moon Shots Program. This particular battle is fought on three fronts: prevention, early detection, and treatment of advanced disease. First of all, because 80% of all lung cancers are tobacco based, the Lung Cancer Moon Shot program has launched initiatives to help in the prevention of tobacco based lung such as personalized tobacco cessation programs, social media, and referrals to successful tobacco treatment programs. Furthermore, through early detection of lung cancer diagnosing, the rate for a cure greatly increases. MD Anderson has played a significant role in the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST) that deaths by lung cancer are often lowered by as much as 20% when smokers were screened early with the use of a low-dose CT scan. Finally, MD Anderson has found treatment options for patients with advanced stage lung cancer haven’t changed much in the last 20 years so they intend on redirecting this trend with a new program called the GEMINI Project. This uses the latest cutting edge technologies to conduct a lung cancer profile from a molecular perspective. This will bypass carpet-bombing the cancer with non-specific chemotherapies in favor of using specifically targeted therapies, which is more like “smart bombing the lung tumors without any damaging side effects (Moon Shots: Lung, 2014).

MELANOMA

Because instances of melanoma and skin cancer deaths have risen over the past 50 years, MD Anderson’s moon shot scientists and physicians have attacked this form of cancer through prevention and through personalized integrated management of the cancer. The MD Anderson melanoma team pursues an aggressive prevention campaign to reduce the exposure to UV light in both children and adolescents with an innovative, all-inclusive program that includes both behavioral interventions and educational outreach to discourage excessive sun exposure through tanning and replace that activity with alternative sun protection practices. Furthermore, the moon shot team uses individualized and cohesive and management of melanoma. If patients are diagnosed early surgery is usually the next step. Although many forms of melanoma are resistant to treatments scientific breakthroughs in researching this diseases have led to this disease the development new immunotherapy agents that accurately and effectively combats even the more advanced stages of melanoma (Moon Shots: Melanoma, 2014).

PROSTATE

The last form of cancer listed in the Moon Shot program is prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute, has estimated there will be 238,590 new cases diagnosed this year, resulting in approximately 30,000. I order to lower the mortality rate of this form of cancer, the Prostate Cancer Moon Shot program has concentrated on three areas: lowering instances of overtreatment; combining therapies used in advanced and early stages of the disease; and creating targeted therapies, such as immunotherapy as an alternative to traditional treatment methods. The goal is to use these treatment and therapy options in order to effectively and timely shift the process from simply treating to actually curing prostate cancer (Moon Shots: Prostate, 2014).

NON-HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA

Although not part of the “Moon Shots” program, MD Anderson is aggressively fighting against, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At MD Anderson their goal is to treat this form of cancer with new treatments that are tailored to each patient and using targeted, biological agents that empower a human body to combat the cancer. Our teams of specialized physicians, as well as support staff including nurses, physician assistants, dietitians, social workers and many others, work closely together – and with you – to give you higher chance for successful treatment (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).

Conclusion:

Based on what I’ve read, and what I’ve observed working at this health system, I believe MD Anderson, is successful in treating the multiple forms of cancer. In fact, if there was a brand new form of cancer to emerge, I would think this cancer center would have the equipment, the technology and the clinical personnel to combat this newest manifestation of cancer. My only recommendation is that they maintain the current list if cancers found in their “moon shots” while also addressing other cancerous diseases. If this is done they will only continue to grow in their success.

References

Center, U. o. (2014). Moon Shots – Breast and Ovarian. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson.org: http://www.cancermoonshots.org/moon-shots/breast-ovarian/

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). About Us. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson.org: http://www.mdanderson.org/about-us/index.html

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). Moon Shots Leukemia (AML/MDS). Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson.org: http://www.cancermoonshots.org/moon-shots/leukemia-aml-mds/

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). Moon Shots Program. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Andderson.org: http://www.mdanderson.org/about-us/facts-and-history/moon-shots-program/index.html

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). Moon Shots: Leukemia (CLL). Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson.org: http://www.cancermoonshots.org/moon-shots/leukemia-cll/

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). Moon Shots: Lung. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson Cancer Center: http://www.cancermoonshots.org/moon-shots/lung/

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). Moon Shots: Melanoma. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson Cancer Center: http://www.cancermoonshots.org/moon-shots/melanoma/

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2014). Moon Shots: Prostate. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson.org: http://www.cancermoonshots.org/moon-shots/prostate/

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (n.d.). Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from MD Anderson.org: http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-types/non-hodgkins-lymphoma/index.html

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