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Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University, New York City

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan is a part of the Columbia University Medical Center. It is the part of the medical center that is devoted to the treatment, prevention, and research of cancer of all types, including mesothelioma. It is just one of 48 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the U.S.

The Cancer Center partners with New York Presbyterian Hospital. Through this partnership patients get access to the best treatment and care as well as the expertise of specialists including those who can treat mesothelioma patients. The Cancer Center treats more than 3,500 cancer patients each year, including several mesothelioma patients referred from other facilities lacking the expertise and technology to help them.

About the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is Columbia University’s center for basic cancer research, clinical research, population cancer research, and cancer treatment for patients. It was first established in 1911 and was originally called the Institute for Cancer Research. The Institute received the designation of a comprehensive cancer center from the National Cancer Institute in 1979 after receiving cancer center status in 1972.

The stated mission of the Cancer Center is to better understand cancer through research and to apply that research to treatment and prevention to directly and significantly reduce the progression of cancer and the incidence of cancer. There are more than 240 members of the Cancer Center and they are drawn from several departments within the Columbia University Medical Center. This allows for collaboration in both research and treatment.

An NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center was first recognized by the National Cancer Institute in 1972 and was designated a comprehensive cancer center in 1979. This exclusive network is only open to institutions that demonstrate excellence in both research and treatment. These facilities have to show that they conduct extensive research into various aspects of cancer and that the research translates into real advances in better outcomes for patients.

Mesothelioma Treatment

Patients referred to the cancer center for mesothelioma treatment work closely with the General Thoracic Surgery Section. This is because surgery is a major part of treatment for most types of mesothelioma, including the two most common types: pleural and peritoneal. A typical strategy for treating mesothelioma, and one used by the experts here is to use surgery to remove as much of the cancer cells as possible and to supplement that with chemotherapy and radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells not visible to the surgeon.

Because the Cancer Center is a leader in innovative research, patients with mesothelioma here benefit from more advanced treatment strategies than they would at other facilities. These include multimodal approaches to treatment, therapy with vaccines, novel chemotherapy drugs, and chemosensitivity testing to determine the best choice of drugs. Patients also get the benefit of the collaborative efforts of experts from a variety of fields including mesothelioma, hematology, medical oncology, radiology, and others.

Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, the cancer of the lining of the abdomen, have the option to undergo surgery with HIPEC treatment at the Cancer Center. The two-stage treatment starts with cytoreductive surgery, surgery to remove as much of the cancer as the surgeon can from the abdomen. The second stage is to flood the abdomen with heated chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells left in the cavity and on organs. This step is called heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, and it has been proven to extend the lives of patients, up to five years.

Dr. Robert Taub, Mesothelioma Specialist

One of the specialists of note at the Herbert Irving Cancer Center is Dr. Robert Taub, a medical oncologist with expertise in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. He is a professor in Columbia’s Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and is also a member, practicing clinician, and researcher at the Cancer Center. He specializes in treating peritoneal mesothelioma using HIPEC. His research has included leading many clinical trials with chemotherapy drugs and other treatments.

Research and Clinical Trials

Research is a very important part of helping patients at the Cancer Center. Research focuses on basic knowledge of cancer, specific types of cancer, the genetics of cancer, treatment for cancer, and population-based studies. As part of the research, the Center strives to improve diversity and actively recruits minorities for studies and clinical trials.

Clinical trials conducted at the Cancer Center are important for advancing treatments and for taking what is learned from laboratory studies and translating it into treatments that work for real patients. These trials also give access to the latest treatments for those who most need it, the patients living with the most difficult to treat cancers, like mesothelioma.

For mesothelioma, there are multiple clinical trials going on at any given time. Currently, researchers and clinicians are recruiting participants for a phase II clinical trial that is testing the use of chemotherapy drugs before and after surgery treatment, followed by radiation therapy. It is a new treatment protocol for pleural mesothelioma.

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is an institution of excellence for patients with all types of cancer. But for those with the most difficult and rarest types of cancer, like mesothelioma, it represents the hope that experts and the latest technologies can help them find a better treatment.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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