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The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chicago

The Cancer Center at the University of Chicago is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center for its dedication to excellence in treatment, patient support, research, and basic science. The Center is known for its multi-disciplinary approach to treating patients as well as to collaboration in research and clinical trials.

Patients with mesothelioma are often referred to the Cancer Center for expert treatment. Most medical facilities are not equipped to treat these patients, but at the University of Chicago there is a department dedicated to mesothelioma, staffed by experts and led by a specialist in the field of mesothelioma research and treatment, Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler, an experienced gastrointestinal oncologist.

About the University of Chicago Cancer Center

The Cancer Center is a part of the medical campus of the University of Chicago, a prestigious institution that was founded in 1890. The medical school was established in 1898. Over the years the hospital system has expanded and grown to include a number of facilities. In its early years this included a Home for Destitute and Crippled Children and the Chicago Lying-In Hospital for women. A dental clinic for poor patients was added in 1933.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that the University of Chicago added cancer centers to its list of specialty facilities. In 1973 the Comprehensive Cancer Center was established, although it did not receive its official designation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) until 2008.

An NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

Only 6948 facilities across the U.S. have been honored by the NCI distinction of being a Comprehensive Cancer Center. For the University of Chicago, this designation means that decades of effort in making its facility state-of-the-art have been recognized. To receive the NCI designation a cancer center must show that it conducts high quality and innovative research, that it is a leader in treating and researching cancer, and that the research conducted leads to real improved outcomes for patients. As a part of the NCI program, the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center receives significant government funding for its research projects and clinical trials.

The Mesothelioma Program

The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center has been providing specialist care for malignant mesothelioma for over 25 years. Most medical facilities, and even many cancer centers, do not have the resources or specialists for mesothelioma, but at the University of Chicago, the Mesothelioma Program has decades of experience in treating mesothelioma patients and leading research into this insidious kind of cancer. The goal of the Program is to use research and treatments to eventually eradicate mesothelioma or to reduce it to a chronic, rather than life-threatening medical condition.

The approach used to treat mesothelioma patients involves working as a collaborative team. The multi-disciplinary approach is preferred when dealing with a difficult and complicate cancer like mesothelioma. Patients often need a variety of experts from diagnosis, to treatment, and supportive services, to get the best care. Because of the focus on mesothelioma and the list of experts working here, the Mesothelioma Program is among the largest such programs in the U.S. and is the largest program devoted entirely to mesothelioma in the Midwest.

Mesothelioma Treatment

Treatment at the Mesothelioma Program at the University of Chicago is strongly focused on using a variety of treatments for a multimodal approach, and that includes using the newest treatment strategies that come directly from mesothelioma research. Patients here can expect to be offered a range of treatments, but an individualized approach. A patient may receive any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, gene therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and any other treatments that may help slow the cancer or make the patient feel more comfortable.

Mesothelioma Specialists

The Mesothelioma Program is led by Dr. Kindler and staffed by experts in this type of cancer and different areas of medicine: pathologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, medical oncologists, and surgeons. Dr. Kindler specializes in gastrointestinal oncology, but is also a leading expert in all types of mesothelioma, including peritoneal mesothelioma. Dr. Kindler’s interest in mesothelioma began early as she witnessed her father passing away from this terrible cancer.

Dr. Kindler now holds several titles at the University of Chicago, including Professor of Medicine, Director of Gastrointestinal Oncology, and Director of the Mesothelioma Program. As a leading expert in the disease she has helped to shape the direction of the Program and has been a big part of focusing research on clinical trials that will make the biggest difference to patients.

Research and Clinical Trials

The Cancer Center is an important center for research and there have been notable breakthroughs here. These include the discovery in 2002 that combining cisplatin and pemetrexed, two different chemotherapy drugs, could significantly extend the lives of patients being treated for pleural mesothelioma, while also relieving many of their symptoms caused by the cancer.

Other important areas of research that scientists and physicians focus on include advances in hormone therapy and gene therapy, and the use of bone marrow transplants. Research projects at the Center also delve into an increased understanding of how cancers start and grow, including research in molecular genetics, cell signaling, and cancer immunology. Researchers also work on population studies, such as investigating risk factors for cancer, early diagnosis, and prevention.

Clinical research and trials involve many types of cancer, including mesothelioma. The Cancer Center and Mesothelioma Program have several mesothelioma clinical trials that are ongoing. These include a phase III trial of a particular combination of chemotherapy drugs, phase II trials of immunotherapy and chemotherapy drugs, and several phase I trials of targeted drugs and therapies and chemotherapy drugs.

Patients who seek care at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center are in good hands, especially those with mesothelioma. This is one of the few cancer centers in the country with a dedicated mesothelioma program and a staff of experts with knowledge of this complicated cancer. Patients can also expect to get access to one or more of numerous clinical trials and advanced treatments not yet available to the general public.

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