NEW YORK – Dr. Eleni Tousimis, Director of the Breast Center and Chief of Breast Surgery and Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, was honored by the Hellenic Medical Society of New York as its 2015 Dr. Mary Kalopothakes Distinguished Female Physician.
The event was sponsored by HMS and Lenox Hill Radiology. Dr. George Liakeas, HMS president, offered greetings and Dr. Stella Lymberis, HMS first vice president, spoke about the Kalopothakes award that is dedicated to women who have overcome barriers to succeed in medicine.
Tousimis was the keynote lecturer at the annual Scientist Award Symposium held in the Einhorn Auditorium of Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Her presentation “Strive for Better Outcomes and Quality of Life for Women with Breast Cancer.”
Dr. Eleni Andreopoulou aslo lectured, talking about “Strategies to Support Next Generation Trials in Breast Oncology: Opportunities for Translational Research and Accelerated Drug Development.”
She said the integration of genomics, scientific research and medical practice, “a symbiosis among disciplines,” points to the realization of the dream of precision medicine, treatments designed for specific individuals.
The final scientific presentation was by Dr. John Melnick, who spoke about “Advances in Prostate MRI.”
Dr. Andreopoulou presented the story of the remarkable life and career of Dr. Mary Kalopothakes, the first Greek-American female physician and introduced Dr. Tousimis, saying “We have gathered to honor a special woman and a special surgeon,” adding that she has met many of Dr. Tousimis’ patients, who sing her praises.
Tousimis’ presentation touched on latest discoveries about the etiology of cancer, including environmental conditions, and treatment advances.
She noted that the highest rates of breast cancer are seen in North America, Western Europe and Australia. Preservatives and hormones in the western diet are the biggest suspects she said.
It is interesting to note that 65 percent of breast cancer cases are characterized as “sporadic,” while 10 percent are hereditary, linked to at least 14 other tell-tale genes, especially BRCA.
Up to 25 percent of cases have family links, though they are not necessarily hereditary.
She emphasized progress in surgery techniques, both less invasive ways of removing tumors and in reconstructive surgery, including nipple-sparing surgery, which have important psychological benefits which have implications for the patient’s well-being and overall health.
The choice between lumpectomy and mastectomy was discussed.
More targeted radiation therapy – the Europeans are the most advanced in this practice – which limits side effects and requires many fewer doses is also a great advance.
The proper use of painkillers is also very helpful. If pain is not treated immediately, it can last up to a year and Dr. Tousimis strongly supports the use of epidurals
EARLY DETECTION EMPHASIZED
It could not be stressed enough by all the speakers that early detection is critical.
The larger the tumor, the fewer the options, and follow up exams are vital, both for the patients’ health and to advance research.
Dr. Tousimis now recommends annual mammograms after the age of 40, and after 35 if there is a family history, and she emphasized the importance of counselling.
Dr. Andreopoulou also discussed advances, especially in cancer classification that takes into account different therapeutic outcomes for patients with the same profiles. She is excited about the next generation of genomic sequencing that will suggest different therapies targeting specific cell pathways, including disruptions to the mechanisms that repair damaged DNA.
The research will help design clinical trials, moving drug development forward.
Progress continues in searching for bio-markers, measurable substances whose presence indicates disease, infection, or environmental exposure.
Dr. Melnick presented information about new imaging technologies and noted the parallels in imaging technology and practices between breast and prostate cancer patients while reminding of the the unique challenge for the latter given the prostate’s location deeper in the body.
MRI is a particularly valuable tool for high risk, high PSI men and the news gold standard is diffusion weight imaging, which can distinguish well between high risk cancers and other conditions, and can spot things that blind biopsies miss.
The most exciting prospect is advances in blood work that are virtual “liquid biopsies” – non-invasive blood tests that detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and fragments of tumor DNA.
Before the scientific presentations, Dr. Soterios Stergiopoulos, the head of breast cancer research for Celgene corporation in the U.S., introduced Despina Yarian, who spoke about her sister Katerina Dinas Raptis. The latter was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. “After many surgeries and a trying time in her life, we decided take something horrible and turn it into something good,” Kat’s Ribbon of Hope, the organization they established that among other things, helps women to obtain treatment and funds clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering.