Through Eisenhower Health’s affiliation with UC San Diego Health Cancer Network, Eisenhower offers desert residents robust cancer services, building on what it has provided the community for decades. As a part of this affiliation, Sandip Patel, MD, Board Certified in Medical Oncology at UC San Diego Health, spends one day a month at Eisenhower, serving as a resource for local oncologists and their patients, in addition to having around-the-clock availability for the Eisenhower oncologists to assist in the care of patients. Dr. Patel specializes in cancer immunotherapy and early-phase clinical trials involving immunotherapy across all types of cancer, with a particular interest in thoracic malignancies, including mesothelioma, lung cancers and thymomas. He focuses on developing personalized therapies that stimulate a patient’s own immune system to attack their specific tumor.
Recently, Dr. Patel discussed his work and what it means for people with cancer here in the Coachella Valley.
“Fundamentally, precision medicine in oncology is delivering the right medicine to the right patient in the right place,” he says. “We’re learning that everyone’s cancer is as unique as they are, so if we can target treatment to their individual tumor, we stand the best chance of fighting that cancer.”
This approach requires drilling down to the molecular level of a tumor — beyond selecting systemic treatments like chemotherapy based simply on where in the body the tumor began.
“Cancer is a disease of our own cells getting hijacked and rewired to work against us,” Dr. Patel continues. “But as we develop tools to figure out what makes once-normal cells betray the body — to mutate — we can devise more precise ways to get them to slow down or, ideally, go away.
“What we understand about cancer is that some types are driven by a specific change in DNA, which leads to specific changes in RNA and protein,” he says. “Current targeted therapies work on protein to block cancer growth.
“For example, with a type of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer, about one in five patients has a specific mutation called EGFR,” he explains. “This is something we can target with a daily pill for a long time. It is much more effective than chemotherapy, with fewer side effects, and patients can take it at home versus an infusion center.
“We’re increasingly discovering these types of targets, so we’re able to design better drugs against them,” he adds, noting that UC San Diego Health is one of the top medical Dr. Patel brings this expertise to Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center’s care team, helping them order additional specialized tests in order to formulate precision treatments for individual patients.
“Cancer is one of the most — if not the most — complex diseases in health care,” he says. “It takes a village of specialists, including medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses, pharmacists and social workers, to make sure patients get the right treatment at the right time.
“That’s why a multidisciplinary team approach is so important, and why I’m grateful that UC San Diego Health Cancer Network and Eisenhower Health are on the same team and motivated toward the same goal,” he adds. “Cancer is simply too complex and serious for anyone to handle it alone — doctor or patient.
“Working together, we’re able to develop the best treatment strategies,” he says, noting that sometimes this can mean using a drug that may work for a patient’s cancer from a molecular standpoint even though it hasn’t been approved for that use. “We can help figure it out,” he adds. Dr. Patel points out that precision medicine is also personalized medicine in a holistic sense.
“We have to understand their goals for treatment,” he continues. “Some people with advanced cancer have tried multiple treatments and want to try another, while others are ready for home hospice. We have to tailor our care to their wishes — and this is something that Eisenhower does very well.”
“When you’re fighting something this serious, having as many eyes on it as possible can only help,” he says. “You may decide to stay the course because you feel reassured that you’ve chosen the right option, or you may be able to add to the treatment you’re already on.
“With the UC San Diego Health Cancer Network affiliation, we’re a resource that brings additional expertise to your backyard,” he adds.
Dr. Patel and Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center specialists will provide a community lecture in early 2020 at the Annenberg Health Sciences Building at Eisenhower. Visit EisenhowerHealth.org/calendar to keep up with the latest community education offerings.
For more information about the services at Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, call 760.674.3602.
IN SEPTEMBER 2019, Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center implemented a personalized cancer therapy clinic one day each month with Sandip Patel, MD, Board Certified in Medical Oncology at UC San Diego Health. Dr. Patel evaluates whether additional personalized cancer therapies or clinical trials may be helpful for a patient given their individual genetic profile and responsiveness to their current course of cancer treatment. This clinic offers local patients the opportunity to benefit from the collaboration of Dr. Patel and Eisenhower oncologists without having to travel to San Diego. To participate, patients must have a referral from their medical oncologist. Any prescribed therapies will be overseen by a medical oncologist with Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center.
The process of personalized cancer therapy includes weekly collaborative sessions between cancer specialists at Eisenhower and UC San Diego Health as well as Eisenhower’s Molecular Tumor Board where cases are further evaluated to determine precision treatment options based on the molecular makeup of a patient’s tumor.
For more information, contact Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center at 760.674.3602.