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BOSTON - As the second installment in a series of webcasts aimed at educating physicians and the general public about new, innovative surgical procedures, surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) demonstrated a type of cancer surgery that generally extends the lives of patients stricken by mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer most often associated with exposure to asbestos. The webcast took place on May 1 at 4:30 P.M. EDT and can be accessed by going to www.brighamandwomens.org/surgerywebcast.
The procedure, which was CME accredited with Harvard Medical School, is known as extrapleural pneumonectomy, and is performed on patients suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma, a form of cancer that occurs in the cells that line the chest cavity. The operation consists of the surgeon removing the thin membrane of tissue that covers the lungs and the heart, as well as a lung and the diaphragmatic muscle. Although not experimental, the surgery is not widely done due to its complexity, and the relative rarity of the type of cancer the procedure targets.
"In the past, this kind of cancer left patients with few treatment options," said David Sugarbaker, MD, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at BWH, and a pioneer in extrapleural pneumonectomy technique. "But we have shown that this type of operation, followed by a program of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, can give a patient who only had months to live, years to live."
While Sugarbaker performed the surgery, his colleague, Yolanda Colson, MD, also of BWH, described for the viewing audience the methodology being employed. Sugarbaker was assisted by BWH thoracic surgeon, Jeanne Lukanich, MD. In addition to their appointments at BWH, all three surgeons are on the staff of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's CancerCenter and are also faculty members of Harvard Medical School.
BWH's first webcast took place on March 6 and enjoyed a large viewership that consisted of doctors, medical students, and the general public. As with that broadcast, the second procedure in the series was staffed by camera crews with complete access to the operating theater. The webcast also featured live audio from within the OR.
It has been estimated that up to 8 million Americans have been exposed to asbestos. The risk of developing mesothelioma is correlated to how much asbestos a person has come in contact with, and for how long. The period of time between exposure to the carcinogenic material and the onset of symptoms can take as long as 20 to 40 years.
"This procedure not only extends a patient's life, but also gives quality of life to that extension," said Sugarbaker. "Teaching other surgeons how to do this procedure will ultimately give a patient population without many effective courses of care some much welcomed treatment options."
BWH is a 716-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare System, an integrated health care delivery network. Internationally recognized as a leading academic health care institution, BWH is committed to excellence in patient care, medical research, and the training and education of health care professionals. The hospital's preeminence in all aspects of clinical care is coupled with its strength in medical research. A leading recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, BWH conducts internationally acclaimed clinical, basic and epidemiological studies.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's CancerCenter, a joint clinical program in adult oncology between the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, provides comprehensive cancer services. Clinical services are integrated between the two adjoining campuses with the majority of the outpatient services delivered at Dana-Farber and the surgical and inpatient care provided at the Brigham and Women's Hospital.