McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member James Luketich, MD (pictured), associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Lung and Esophageal Cancer Program, is the lead investigator of a phase II study that addressed the rise of esophageal cancer and its best treatment options. The results showed that patients with esophageal cancer who require surgery may benefit from having minimally invasive surgery instead of an open esophagectomy, or removal of the esophagus.
“Esophageal cancer rates are rising more rapidly than for any other cancer in world,” said Dr. Luketich. “In the last two decades alone, esophageal cancer cases have grown more than 400 percent.”
This is the first time minimally invasive esophagectomies (MIE) have been assessed in a multicenter study, although single institution studies have previously demonstrated success with MIEs. The study enrolled 106 patients from 16 institutions across the country. Of those patients, 99 qualified for and received an MIE. While overall survival rates remained the same whether a patient received an MIE or an open procedure, surgical mortality rates were lower and the hospital stays shorter for MIE patients.
Co-investigator Arjun Pennathur, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, noted, “The best treatment for this disease is removal of the tumor, and if we can do the necessary surgery with MIE and reduce recovery times and mortality rates, then patients will benefit enormously.”
Approximately 16,500 cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Although symptoms often don’t appear until the disease has progressed into later stages, an increasing number of patients are diagnosed with early stage disease, according to Dr. Luketich. “With this cancer on the rise, we need to do everything we can to increase patients’ survival,” he said. “MIE is an ideal surgery because it encourages faster healing and less time spent inside the hospital, where patients can be exposed to infections and other complications. The more quickly patients recover, the more quickly they can begin other forms of treatment they might need.”
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations News Release (05/31/09)
UPMC Cancer Centers News Release (05/31/09)
Medical News Today (06/02/09)
Bio: Dr. James Luketich