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The MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston is one of the three original comprehensive cancer centers to open in the U.S. It is both an academic center, teaching and training future physicians and surgeons, and a cutting edge treatment and research facility providing comprehensive diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment for patients with cancer.
MD Anderson is now one of 47 comprehensive cancer centers, as designated by the National Cancer Institute and was listed by U.S. News & World Report as the top cancer care center in the country in 2016. The thoracic center at MD Anderson specializes in treating mesothelioma and is staffed by some of the world’s leading experts in this rare cancer. More patients with mesothelioma are treated here than almost anywhere else in the U.S.
Facts about MD Anderson Cancer Center
MD Anderson was one of the first three comprehensive cancer centers established by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These are research and treatment facilities funded by the NCI and completely dedicated to cancer. MD Anderson is devoted to cancer research, treatment, prevention, and education. For nine out of the last ten years it has been listed as one of the best cancer hospitals in the country.
MD Anderson has treated more than 1.2 million patients since 1944, and treated 135,000 patients in 2016. The center subsidized nearly $300 million in care for underinsured or uninsured patients. The center also enrolled more than 7,500 patients in clinical trials in 2016 where they were able to access cutting edge treatments not yet approved for use.
The MD Anderson Cancer Center was established in 1941 as part of the University of Texas system. The facility is also affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. MD or Monroe Dunaway Anderson was one of the largest cotton producers and traders in the world at one time. Anderson used $300,000 to establish the MD Anderson Foundation in 1936 to avoid the estate tax and to contribute to charitable investments.
When Anderson died in 1939, the Foundation carried on, growing to more than $19 million. The trustees of the foundation had gotten no word from Anderson as to how to spend the money, but they decided on health care. After the 1941 authorization to establish a cancer center at the University of Texas, the trustees decided to give some of the money from the foundation to help get it started. The caveat was that it needed to be located in Houston and named for MD Anderson.
From its earliest days with just 46 leased hospital beds and an old army barracks, the MD Anderson Cancer Center has grown into one of the most respected health care facilities in the world. It has experienced controversy, though, including in 2005 when the center leased its name rights to allow private investors to promote proton therapy, a novel cancer treatment.
MD Anderson treats patients with different types of cancer, including mesothelioma. The Thoracic Center works with mesothelioma patients, as well as those with lung cancer and other cancers of the chest cavity and airways. The approach to treatment in the Thoracic Center is multidisciplinary. It is staffed by exerts in mesothelioma, but patients also benefit from the collaboration between these specialists and others.
Patients who turn to MD Anderson for mesothelioma care benefit from a variety of treatments and a multimodal approach. No one treatment will manage or cure this cancer, so patients need a range of treatment strategies for maximum benefits. Some examples of the treatments mesothelioma patients may receive at MD Anderson include minimally invasive and robotic surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, extrapleural pneumonectomy, and pleurectomy/decortication.
Proton therapy is also available at MD Anderson. It is a newer treatment that researchers here and elsewhere have developed to better target tumors. A beam of radiation is used, but with a different type of energy from traditional radiation therapy. The protons in the beam deliver radiation to the tumor, avoiding damage to healthy tissue around it.
Research at MD Anderson
Research is one of the main reasons that MD Anderson exists as a comprehensive cancer center. NCI funding supports cutting-edge research and clinical trials to advance knowledge of all types of cancers and to find better treatments, even cures. The center’s Moon Shots Program is designed to quickly accelerate cures for cancer through research and multidisciplinary teams.
The center’s research includes mesothelioma studies and clinical trials, including the study of novel chemotherapy drugs, new surgical procedures, multimodal treatment strategies, and innovative new treatments like proton therapy. MD Anderson is also working on targeted therapies, drugs that specifically target the cancer cells and tumors of each individual person, based on genetics and other factors.
The Thoracic Center at MD Anderson is staffed by some of the world’s leading specialists in mesothelioma and in some of the treatments that are used to treat this cancer. These include cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons, thoracic medical oncologists, and thoracic radiation oncologists. Some of the most accomplished of these include Dr. David Rice, who developed better ways to treat patients surgically and less invasively. His focus on patient care and well-being make him a popular doctor.
Dr. Anne Tsao is a leading medical oncologist at MD Anderson and a world-renowned expert in mesothelioma research and treatment. Dr. Tsao has been instrumental in developing proton therapy to treat patients with fewer side effects. She is also a proponent of individualized treatment plans for all patients through collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach. Dr. Stephen Swisher is the head of surgery and thoracic surgery and is a leader in using gene therapy to treat cancer, including mesothelioma.
As one of the leading cancer centers, not just in the U.S., but in the world, MD Anderson Cancer Center is a good place for any patient with mesothelioma. The experts here not only care about patients, they care about new treatments, diagnosing mesothelioma accurately and early, and conducting research that will one day eradicate all cancers.
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.