Holy Cross Health Participates in University of Pennsylvania Research Program to Treat Ovarian Cancer (PHOTO)

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James Barter, MD; Lyudmila Kalnitskaya; Carrie Gillotte; David Min, MD

Holy Cross Health is participating in a study with the University of Pennsylvania to offer immunotherapy and personalized care for patients with ovarian cancer. Gynecologic Oncologist James Barter, MD and medical oncologist David Min, MD and the Holy Cross Health oncology team have joined the Ovarian Cancer Research Center Immunotherapy Program (OCRC) at the University of Pennsylvania. The study focuses on developing new therapies which boost the body’s own ability to fight ovarian cancer. One such therapy being studied is the effectiveness of cancer vaccines unique to the individual patient and developed from the patient’s own tumor.

According to Holy Cross Health, up to 85 percent of ovarian cancer patients do not respond to traditional treatments or respond but later develop resistance, causing recurrence. “Ovarian cancer is a tough disease to treat.  Only about 30 percent of patients survive five years,” said Dr. Min.  “We need newer and more effective treatment modalities. Cancer vaccines are making great strides in survival rates for other cancers and this procedure is the first major treatment advance in ovarian cancer in decades.”

Both physicians work closely with Holy Cross ovarian cancer patients to determine the viability of tumor storage, as part of Holy Cross Health’s team approach to care. Recovered tumors are then sent to an internationally recognized organization specializing in tumor storage and processing for all types of cancer. Once a patient is identified as viable by the OCRC program, a vaccine is created as a post-surgery treatment option.

“The process is potentially life-changing,” according to Dr. Barter. “Every year millions of cancer patients miss out on the opportunity to explore immunotherapy options because they are unaware of the importance of tumor preservation.”

Dr. Barter talks about this approach to cancer treatment in this Holy Cross Hospital video.

One patient who recently benefited from this process is Carrie Gillotte. It all began when she grew unusually tired while on a biking trip in Europe and discovered that she was suffering from ovarian cancer. Back in the United States, Gillotte’s physician was aware of the work being done at Holy Cross Health and made the referral to Dr. Barter, who saw Gillotte the same day. He performed the surgery, the tumor was saved, a vaccine created and her most recent CT scan shows that Gillotte is doing well. “In five months it showed no new tumors, it showed no spread of the disease and it showed that the existing tumors had not grown,” said Gillotte. “So, that was like a miracle to say the very least.”

Holy Cross Hospital and Holy Cross Germantown Hospital perform more inpatient gynecologic and gynecologic cancer surgeries than any hospital or health system in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as part of Holy Cross gynecologic cancer treatment program. Clinical trials are an important aspect of patient care.

“Access to clinical trials through an active research program focused on gynecologic cancers and patient and family support through our ovarian and gynecologic cancer support groups are also a part of our team approach to cancer care,” said Blair Eig, MD, chief medical officer, Holy Cross Health. “New partnerships allow Holy Cross Hospital to offer state of the art clinical trials to our patients,” said Lyudmila Kalnitskaya, director, Clinical Research Program, Holy Cross Hospital. “They can receive treatment at Holy Cross, right in their community, so they can limit travel and remain under the care of their treating physician.”

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