Practice Blog


The February 2017 Northern Virginia Magazine Top Doctors is in, and the following are listed:

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We’ve made significant progress in the treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies over the last ten years. More than ever before, treatment is being tailored to molecular features of tumors within each individual patient that subdivide disease categories beyond just the cancer’s tissue or organ of origin. Known as “precision medicine,” these new treatment strategies represent progress toward the ultimate goal of individually customized therapy based on comprehensive molecular profiling of each individual tumor.

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Dr. Amy Irwin provides an overview of what she considered the key themes from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.  These included the diversity of breast cancer biology, as well as the diversity of targets available for response and prognostic factors.

Video Link 

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Dr. Alex Spira of Virginia Cancer Specialists -- How to monitor and manage immunotherapy related events in lung cancer at the 2016 World Congress of Lung Cancer (WCLC) of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) in Vienna, Austria.

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We are honored to participate in the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Race for Research. Please help us support the efforts of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation by joining the VCS team today.

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Lung Cancer Specialist Dr. Alex Spira recently interviewed by Pat Lawson Muse, host of For Your Sunday Viewpoint NBC4, with LUNGevity. The interview kicked off the LUNGevity DC Walk Sunday to celebrate lung cancer awareness month in November. It involved a discussion on “what are the latest highlights in lung cancer treatment”.

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Ribociclib as First-Line Therapy for HR-Positive, Advanced Breast Cancer - Co Author Anne M Favret

New England Journal of Medicine.

This phase 3 trial showed significant prolongation of progression-free survival and higher rates of overall response with the addition of ribociclib to letrozole than with the addition of placebo to letrozole for first-line treatment in postmenopausal women with HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer. The improvement in the duration of progression-free survival was associated with a higher rate of myelosuppression among patients in the ribociclib group.

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Some of the risk-factors associated with breast cancer -- being a woman, your age, family history and your genetics, for example -- can't be changed.

Other factors -- being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes, and eating unhealthy food -- can be changed by making choices. By choosing the healthiest lifestyle options possible, you can empower yourself and make sure your breast cancer risk is as low as possible.

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What is new in the world of breast cancer?

There are currently more than 2.8 million women living with a history of breast cancer in the U.S., including those undergoing treatment and those who have completed treatment.   In 2016, an estimated 246,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women and 2,600 cases are expected to be diagnosed in men.  About 1 in 8 U.S. women (12%) will develop invasive cancer over the course of her lifetime.

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Exciting News for High-Risk Prostate Cancer from a Controlled Randomized Trial

 

Gregory S. Sibley, M.D.

It's Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and although prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, excluding skin cancers, it ranks relatively low in cancer mortality. In fact, many men with low-risk prostate cancers should be encouraged to avoid treatment entirely and pursue active surveillance, or “watchful waiting”. This is not true, however for the high-risk prostate cancers defined as having PSA blood tests of >20 or poorly differentiated tumors on biopsy, i.e. Gleason 8-10 cancer. These cancers are much more aggressive, and are often not controlled with surgery alone.

For decades, physicians treating prostate cancer have had to rely on retrospective patient outcome data to compare the various treatment options, which are known to be statistically unreliable. Fortunately, this past year an excellent controlled randomized trial was reported from British Columbia that now provides us with reliable long-term data.

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Immunotherapy has proven to be one of the most exciting new areas for oncology and for our patients. These drugs have proven to be very effective in certain cancers (e.g. melanoma, lung cancer) but not in all.  VCS is excited to open several new clinical trials using immunotherapy for patients that have either failed prior immunotherapy drugs or are interested in this approach for their cancers.

Currently we have several studies open across many tumor types using this approach.

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Each year  in July, we pause to remember the toll of sarcoma on patients and families. We also recognize and applaud the hopeful signs in future treatments being developed. I am proud of the team we have assembled at Virginia Cancer Specialists to treat patients with sarcoma, not just with medical therapies, but while considering the whole person and family. We are doing better every year. We have to.

 

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As a cancer patient or cancer survivor, it’s important to take care of yourself. Studies have shown that one of the best ways to do this is through physical activity. Of course, if you’re undergoing treatment, rigorous activity is not a good idea. But, regular moderate exercise, such as walking or strength training with light weights, can contribute greatly to your overall health and well-being. As always, talk with your physician about types of exercise that will be the safest for you specifically, and which types are not recommended.

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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s an appropriate time to address how to stay safe while enjoying the warm sunny days ahead. Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the United States. By learning about the steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, you can enjoy the outdoors without being affected by harmful UV rays.

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Alcohol and Cancer Risk

April 5, 2016

Researchers often reveal newly discovered risks for developing cancer, but some risks can be considered as general knowledge. How do you know if some of these potential causes of cancer, like alcohol, have been proven as carcinogens? There isn’t a proven direct link to alcohol being the cause of cancer, but there is evidence consuming certain amounts of alcohol increases the risk of a number of cancers, and the less alcohol someone consumes daily, the less their risk of developing cancer.

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Each year, the month of March is recognized as Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month. If you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, there are often many questions that come to mind along your journey. There could also be some questions you don’t think to ask. Here are some facts about the disease, important things to consider when gathering information from your doctor, and what kinds of questions to keep in mind.

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February 29th each leap year is recognized as Rare Disease Day. It is important to acknowledge lesser known diseases, because this understanding can help spread awareness of treatments, support groups and the symptoms that can aid in early detection.

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As the new year begins, you may have some goals you’d like to reach involving your health. Many health risks are attributed to certain genes within a family. Therefore, you may want to learn more about your family history and how genetic risk assessments and genetic counseling can help unlock the mystery behind it.

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For cancer patients, the holidays can be a tough time. Everywhere you look, you’re being encouraged to be cheerful and for some, it’s difficult to feel merry when health problems are your number one focus. Here are some great ideas to help bring comfort to you and your family and friends this season.

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Since 1995, a coalition of health care community members and families affected by lung cancer have promoted awareness of this disease every November. Lung cancer claims more lives than any other type of cancer, according to Free to Breathe, a partnership for lung cancer survival. In the U.S.,158,000 people succumb to lung cancer each year -- more than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. By shedding light on causes, screening and treatment for lung cancer, the activists behind Lung Cancer Awareness Month hope to decrease the disease’s terrible prevalence.

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While significant medical advances against breast cancer are made each year, too many lives are still being lost to this disease. The latest statistics from the American Cancer Society predict that in 2015, nearly 40,000 American women will lose their lives to breast cancer.

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In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month we sat down with our own Dr. Sibley for a Q&A on prostate cancer and brachytherapy.

What types of cancer can be treated using brachytherapy, and why is it used?

Although many cancers have been successfully treated with brachytherapy, common uses are for prostate cancer, gynecologic cancers and breast cancer. Unlike external beam radiotherapy, brachytherapy delivers radiotherapy through short-range radiation and must be placed within the target volume.

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It was an exciting and emotional day in Virginia Cancer Specialists’ Stem Cell Department. Long-time patient Tony R. paid the office a visit and brought with him a very special guest, Kevin M. After undergoing a two year waiting period, and communicating via text, email, and Skype, Tony and his bone marrow donor were finally being united in person. Tony took the time to include VCS in his special moment and to share some of the “behind the scenes” details that went in to making the emotional meeting a reality.

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Stem Cell Transplant

July 8, 2015

You may have heard the term “stem cell transplant” in the news, but unless you or a loved one is experiencing a serious illness, you may not have the full picture of what it means. With the exception of small numbers of stem cells found in blood and the umbilical cord, most stem cells live deep within the bones in spongy tissue called bone marrow.

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The fight against cancer is one that is constant and often devastating, so it's important to recognize those who have personally experienced this terrible disease. The celebration to honor these fighters is held nationally June 7, which is National Cancer Survivors Day. For those that haven't been personally touched by cancer, it's natural to wonder the meaning behind this special day.

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People who have been given the news that they have cancer will naturally go through a wide range of emotions. They may feel confused, angry, afraid or just numb. They may wonder how other cancer patients find the strength within themselves to stay positive through all of the obstacles that come with the diagnosis. Oncology nurses are at the heart of what it means to support, care for, educate and counsel those who have been diagnosed with cancer and their families.

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Many people know about the most common types of cancer, such as lung, skin and breast, but may lack knowledge of lesser known cancers, many of which are preventable in some way. Increasing public awareness of some less common cancers is the goal of National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, held every year the week of April 14-20. Cancer can affect an extremely diverse array of tissues, including bone, skin and glands in the mouth, head and neck. Learning about the symptoms of these cancers can help you detect or prevent disease.

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What to Know When You Go

March 2, 2015

Poop. Feces. Stool. Whatever you call it, you probably don't like to talk about it. Although you don't necessarily have to talk about it, you should become familiar with it if you want to protect your health. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States. Familiarize yourself with your stool and bowel habits: the earlier you detect anomalies and have them checked out, the better your prognosis will probably be if you're diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

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Research has shown that a diet filled with nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce the risk of cancer. Simple adjustments to your lifestyle choices can have a powerful healthy impact. In honor of National Cancer Prevention Month this February, here are five ideas for healthy breakfasts that can help you fight off cancer from the comfort of your own kitchen.

Fresh Fruit Salad

According to an article recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, diets that are full of healthy fruits may reduce the risk of certain stomach and lung cancers.

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What You Should Know

Cancer patients may have an increased risk of getting the flu. They often have weakened immune systems, which makes them more susceptible to catching colds and the flu. And when they do catch something, it can be much more serious and/or harder for them to recover. This is why cancer patients are more likely to end up in the hospital from typical flu-related symptoms. Taking precautions can go a long way in your fight against cancer.

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Neda Moyer meets RG3 at the Washington
Redskins 2014 All-Star Survivor Celebration

Neda Moyer never thought that she would be diagnosed with breast cancer. As someone who made sure to get yearly mammograms and take care of her health, it came as a shock when her cancer was found on a routine scan. In April of 2014, after undergoing follow-up ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy, being diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, and subsequently Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, was jolting and real. But Neda encourages breast cancer patients to stay positive and find joy. Recently, she was honored to have a positive experience like no other, when she was among 31 local breast cancer survivors honored by the Washington Redskins. Neda took the time to share her experience and story with us, ultimately sending a message of increased awareness and hope.

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September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness month, and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is hosting an event called the Light the Night Walk. Participation in the walk helps raise funds for the LLS and research into life-saving treatments.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has been dedicated to curing blood cancers since 1949; it is the world’s largest global nonprofit health organization committed to blood cancer research and education and support services. Its mission is to “cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.” LLS seeks to ensure that blood cancer patients live longer, better lives.

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In honor of the 40th anniversary of Virginia Cancer Specialists, Dr. Arthur Kales, one of the original founders and current Practice President, recently sat down to discuss the beginnings of the practice. According to Dr. Kales, it was definitely a humble start.  He and fellow founder, hematologist/oncologist Dr. Binder, decided to leave their positions in academics and take the risk of starting one of the first outpatient cancer treatment facilities in the region. This would allow them to focus on spending more time caring for their patients.

They started it all in a small, 1,500 square foot space under the name of Kales & Binder. As the practice grew to meet the needs of the region, the name was changed to Fairfax Northern Virginia Hematology Oncology and then finally to Virginia Cancer Specialists in 2010.

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On the first Sunday of June each year we celebrate the lives of those who have been touched by cancer -- patients, survivors, and their families.  This year we started the celebration with just under 14 million cancer survivors in America alone. That doesn’t even count the millions of families who help their loved ones through their cancer journey. 

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Clinical research is at the heart of all medical advances, including treatments for cancer. Clinical trials are research studies that involve patient volunteers who are carefully monitored throughout their treatment with the medicine or combination of medicines being evaluated in the study.

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Myeloma is the second most common blood cancer. While it affects more than 750,000 people per year, many don’t recognize the symptoms soon enough for treatment to be as effective as possible. The International Myeloma Foundation is asking everyone to tell one person this month about myeloma to help raise awareness and ultimately save lives.

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