Patient Care

Wilmot’s Rising Stars, Veterans, Bring Know-how to Oncology Peers

May. 31, 2017
Female doctor presenting data at meeting

Two junior researchers at the Wilmot Cancer Institute —a post-doctoral associate and a fellow—each won merit awards from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and will be among the 30,000-plus participants at the most important cancer meeting of the year.

Po-Ju Lin, Ph.D., M.P.H., won the 2017 ASCO Pain and Symptom Management Merit Award. She will discuss data showing that yoga improves sleep quality for people who suffer from incapacitating cancer-related fatigue. Lin is a researcher in the University of Rochester Department of Surgery, Cancer Control Unit, and also works in the URMC PEAK Lab, which conducts exercise testing and other assessments of the body’s metabolism, heart and lung function, strength and balance, for scientific investigators.

Melissa Loh, M.D., won the 2017 Conquer Cancer Foundation Merit Award. Her study of 198 older cancer patients (66+ years) showed that gentle exercise improves quality of life for people actively taking chemotherapy. The study recommends that physicians consider using exercise as part of treatment for older adults because even small reductions in the ability to function can lead to disability, treatment stoppage, and death.  Loh is a fellow in Wilmot’s hematology/oncology unit.

Other Wilmot faculty presentations include educational talks by Carla Casulo, M.D., on when and how to combine and use in a sequence new drugs to treat follicular lymphoma; and by Paul Barr, M.D., on how to apply new World Health Organization classifications for lymphoid cancers in clinical practice. Ronald Epstein, M.D., will also give a talk in a session about physician burnout. He will discuss evidence-based programs that promote resilience.

Wilmot has one of the few programs in the nation with a specialty clinic in geriatric oncology. Its leader, Supriya Mohile, M.D., is discussing how best to design clinical trials for older adults with cancer, in a special ASCO symposium for geriatric oncology.  Mohile and Loh are also participating in a half-day educational conference on how to care for older adults in clinical practice, where practices at Wilmot and the University of Rochester are being highlighted as an example for oncologists across the country. Erika Ramsdale, M.D., is giving a talk on the value of cancer treatment for older patients. A recent winner of the Wilmot Fellowship Award, Ramsdale is speaking at an education session chaired by Beverly Canin, a patient advocate who works with Mohile and her team on research projects.   

Several other Wilmot investigators from the Cancer Control and Survivorship program will showcase studies covering a wide range of topics such as using vitamin D supplements to reduce bone loss in older prostate cancer patients; end-of-life care for advanced cancer patients; the emotional toll of care-giving; and the effect of exercise on biomarkers of muscle damage. Those investigators include: Matt Asare, Calvin Cole, Michelle Janelsins, Charles Kamen, Sarah Kerns, Ian Kleckner, Supriya Mohile, Karen Mustian, Mark O’Rourke, Oxana Palesh, Anita Peoples, and Luke Peppone.

Rachel David, M.D., a fellow, won a Wilmot internal award to attend ASCO, where she will exhibit a poster on central line-associated complications during treatment of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The Carol and John Bennett Travel Fellowship, established by URMC Professor John Bennett, M.D., honors young faculty or trainees’ research and pays travel expenses to attend a major national meeting.

Finally, Zhaomin Xu, M.D., a URMC surgery research resident, is exhibiting a poster with data on the “alarmingly high” variation among surgeons and hospitals in New York state in the decision to recommend chemotherapy to patients with stage 3 colon cancer after surgery.  Scientists reviewed the records of 11,575 patients that met their criteria, and investigated influencing factors such as a patient’s age and other health problems. However they found that hospital factors were responsible for the majority of the variations.

ASCO, which takes place in Chicago on June 2 to June 6, brings together thousands of cancer doctors, researchers, and patient advocates from around the world to learn about the newest therapies and ongoing challenges in oncology.

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