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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh

As a Comprehensive Cancer Center, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, the Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is a facility that provides excellent care for all kinds of cancer patients, including mesothelioma patients. It is also a center for focused cancer research, developing cutting edge treatments, better diagnostics, and a better overall understanding of cancer.

Within the Hillman Cancer Center is the Mesothelioma Specialty Care program. Established in 2011, this program provides patients with care from a team of experts and specialists in mesothelioma, surgery, radiation, and other areas of medicine. Patients benefit from the multi-disciplinary approach to diagnosis and treatment and can be assured of getting the best care.

About the Hillman Cancer Center

The Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), was first established in 1985 and was formerly known as the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. It is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and is staffed by almost 400 clinicians and researchers providing patient care and conducting research and clinical trials.

These professionals specialize in a variety of fields that are related to researching, diagnosing, treating, and preventing all types of cancer. Most are affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, but some are affiliated with other organizations, including Carnegie Mellon University. The Hillman Cancer Center maintains an extensive network of collaboration with other professionals and institutions, ranging throughout western Pennsylvania and even internationally, in order to provide the best care for patients and to advance research.

A Comprehensive Cancer Center

Only 48 cancer centers in the U.S. have been designated by the National Cancer Institute as Comprehensive Cancer Centers, and these include the Hillman Cancer Center. The designation is reserved for those facilities that exhibit excellence in both patient care and cancer research. These facilities benefit from the designation because they get funding through the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Health to conduct research and lead clinical trials. The Hillman first received its designation in 1990, just a few years after opening its doors.

The Mesothelioma Specialty Care Program

One of the most important things that the Hillman Cancer Center offers patients is treatment from specialists in rare cancers, including mesothelioma. Cancers like mesothelioma are not common and neither are experts in how to treat it. Victims of asbestos and mesothelioma need places like Hillman where they can find the people who are able to treat them.

The dedicated team that cares for mesothelioma patients belongs to the Hillman’s Mesothelioma Specialty Care program, just one of several programs dedicated to rare cancers. The program for mesothelioma was established in 2011 and specializes in researching and treating both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. The team at Hillman brings together pulmonologists, radiologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, thoracic surgeons, and others to provide patients with a multi-disciplinary approach to creating individualized treatment plans.

A Staff of Mesothelioma Specialists

The Mesothelioma Specialty Care program is staffed by a number of experts in different specialties, including those that are leaders in mesothelioma treatment. These include Dr. David Bartlett, the head of UPMC’s surgical oncology department. He is a surgical oncologist who specialized in mesothelioma while working as senior investigator and surgeon at the National Cancer Institute. One of his major accomplishments was developing a treatment for the cancer called regional perfusion. Dr. Bartlett leads a team of experts specializing in minimally invasive thoracic surgery, radiation therapy, and other types of mesothelioma treatments.

Regional Perfusion for Mesothelioma Patients

Hillman is unique in treating mesothelioma in that it offers experts in using a treatment strategy called regional perfusion. In addition to leading surgical oncology, Dr. Bartlett is also the director of the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center, using his expertise in the treatment he helped to develop and bringing it to patients who need it. The treatment is mostly used for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, and there are several forms that can be used depending on each patient’s individual needs or limitations.

Regional perfusion is a type of chemotherapy, but instead of delivering the drug to the entire bloodstream through an IV, this strategy involves delivering the drugs right to the area where the cancer is growing. For mesothelioma this treatment is useful because many patients have cancer that is too advanced, that has spread too much, to be treatable with surgery. Regional perfusion bathes an entire area with chemotherapy drugs, directly targeting all the smaller growths.

Comprehensive Lung Cancer Treatment Program

Hillman Cancer Center also has a program devoted to treating lung cancer, another type of cancer that may be caused by asbestos exposure. As with the mesothelioma program, this program is staffed by experts in several areas of medicine and surgery to provide patients with collaborative and personalized care. In addition to standard treatments, patients in the lung cancer program benefit from holistic care that includes nutrition counseling, pain management, social support, palliative care, and psychological care.

Research and Clinical Trials

Some of the major areas of research conducted at the Hillman Cancer Center are studies that help to advance knowledge of how cancer develops and progresses, studies of biomarkers that can be used to detect and diagnose cancer, the discovery of new drugs used for cancer treatment, and the investigation of more effective ways to prevent cancer.

Researchers here also conduct and lead clinical trials, studies of treatments with actual patients. These trials both test the effectiveness and safety of treatments and give patients unique opportunities to benefit from advanced and otherwise unavailable treatments. For mesothelioma patients the Hillman researchers are currently conducting clinical trials using the novel chemotherapy drug pemetrexed. It is so far showing promise as a new treatment.

For patients with mesothelioma, getting treated can often feel hopeless, like the cancer is nothing more than a death sentence. Dedicated researchers and physicians are trying to change that, and are developing and offering treatments to better manage this cancer. Some of those experts can be found at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Patients with either pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma can benefit greatly from the caring, collaborative, and innovative care offered here.

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