“Patients with colorectal cancer don’t have to go anywhere else for the best care,” says Steven J. McClane, MD, head of the Division of Colorectal Surgery and co-director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “Our affiliation with MD Anderson Cancer Center – a global leader in cancer care – has elevated care here to that of a world-class center, complete with proven treatment protocols, innovative research, and the latest clinical trials.
“This affiliation also has enabled us to recruit some of the nation’s finest clinicians – both senior physicians and surgeons – and those from top fellowship programs,” he adds.
Colorectal surgeon Michael E. Kwiatt, MD, is a case in point. After completing his fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic last year, he joined MD Anderson Cooper, adding his expertise in transanal minimally invasive surgery (TAMIS) to the Cancer Center’s already-considerable skillset for treating gastrointestinal cancers.
TAMIS is a specialized, minimally invasive approach to removing benign polyps and some early-stage tumors within the rectum and lower sigmoid colon. It’s considered an organ-sparing procedure in that the surgeon can precisely remove the diseased tissue, leaving the rest of the natural bowel lumen intact, so patients experience a quick return to normal bowel function.
“Appropriate patients are able to have a small procedure that’s performed completely through the anus without any incisions or scars on the abdomen,” Dr. Kwiatt explains.
“They can avoid conventional open colon resection, with its several days to a week-long hospital stay, and even longer recovery. Instead, with TAMIS, they spend just one night in the hospital and are back to their regular activities within days.”
Who is the appropriate candidate for TAMIS?
“This procedure is for patients with the earliest rectal cancers,” Dr. Kwiatt says. “These are T1 lesions—those that have invaded only into the sub-mucosa but not deeper into the muscular layers of the bowel.”
“The decision as to which patients are candidates for TAMIS isn’t made solely by the surgeon,” Dr. Kwiatt stresses. “All cases are reviewed at our tumor board meeting, where input from pathologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, gastroenterologists, and other clinical experts help determine the best course of treatment for each patient.”
“This strong, multidisciplinary approach to GI cancer care is what sets us apart,” Dr. McClane notes. “From screening and diagnosis, through treatment and survivorship, patients are seen by multiple specialists, and this comprehensive team shares their expertise to develop a care plan tailored to the individual’s unique health needs.”
This team expands to include an array of supportive services including social work, nutritional therapy, and genetic testing and counseling.
MD Anderson Cooper is equally committed to preventing colorectal cancer, pledging its support for the “80% by 2018” initiative spearheaded by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. This awareness initiative aims to get 80 percent of eligible men and women screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
“Currently, nationwide numbers for screening colonoscopy in patients over age 50 are in the 50 to 60 percent range,” Dr. McClane notes. “These rates are lower in South Jersey, however, especially in areas of Camden.
“So we have work to do in getting word out, and engaging and educating the community,” he adds. “But this is a preventable cancer, so there’s so a great deal to be gained.” ■