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The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, is part of the Columbia University Medical Center. The Cancer Center is devoted to the treatment, prevention, and research of all cancers, including mesothelioma. In addition, the center designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute and is one of only 48 centers in the United States.
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 Cancer Center’s mission is to better understand cancer through research, applying that research to treatment and prevention to directly and significantly reduce the progression and incidence of cancer. There are more than 240 members of the Cancer Center, drawn from several departments within the Columbia University Medical Center. This promotes collaboration in both treatment and research.
An NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center was first recognized by the National Cancer Institute in 1972. In 1979, it was designated a comprehensive cancer center. This exclusive network is only open to institutions that demonstrate excellence in both research and treatment. Comprehensive cancer centers must conduct extensive research into various aspects of cancer, and the research must translate into better patient outcomes.
Patients referred to the cancer center for mesothelioma treatment work closely with the General Thoracic Surgery Section. Surgery is a major treatment component for most types of mesothelioma, including the two most common types, pleural and peritoneal. A typical strategy for treating mesothelioma uses surgery to remove as much of the cancer cells as possible. After surgery, chemotherapy or radiation kills remaining cancer cells surgeons were unable to remove.
Because the Cancer Center leads innovative research, patients with mesothelioma benefit from advanced treatment strategies unavailable in many other facilities. These treatments include multi-modal approaches, vaccine therapies, novel chemotherapy drugs, and chemosensitivity testing to determine the best drug combinations. Patients also benefit from collaborative efforts of experts from a variety of fields including mesothelioma, hematology, medical oncology, and radiology.
Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, cancer of the abdominal lining, have the option to undergo surgery with HIPEC treatment at the Cancer Center. This two-stage treatment begins with cytoreductive surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible. During the second stage of treatment, heated chemotherapy drugs flood the abdomen, killing cancer cells left behind after surgery. This step is known as heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC is proven to extend the patient lives up to five years.
Dr. Robert Taub, Mesothelioma Specialist
One notable specialist at the Herbert Irving Cancer Center is Dr. Robert Taub, a medical oncologist with expertise in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. Dr. Taub is a professor in Columbia’s Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. He also specializes in the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma using HIPEC. His research has included numerous clinical trials.
Research and Clinical Trials
Research is a very important part of helping patients at the Cancer Center. Here, research focuses on basic knowledge of cancer, specific cancer types, treatment for cancer, genetics of cancer, and population-based studies. Research at the Center focuses on improving diversity, actively recruiting minorities for studies and clinical trials.
Clinical trials take what is learned from laboratory studies and translating it into real world practices. Trials also provide access to the latest treatments for those who need it most, patients living with difficult-to treat-cancers like mesothelioma.
For mesothelioma, there are multiple clinical trials going on simultaneously. Currently, researchers and clinicians are recruiting participants for a phase II clinical trial for pleural mesothelioma. This trial is testing the use of chemotherapy drugs before and after surgery treatment, followed by radiation therapy.
The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is an institution of excellence for patients with all types of cancer. However, for those with rare and difficult cancers like mesothelioma, the cneter represents hope for better treatment from the latest advancements in care.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate 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.