Few words elicit as much fear as the word “cancer” does. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), getting cancer is the number one health concern of Americans; numerous surveys also show that many of us believe there is little an individual can do to prevent cancer – and little a doctor can do to improve outcomes if one is diagnosed with the disease. Fortunately, when it comes to cancer, the physicians and staff of The Villages Cancer Center know how to separate the facts from the fears.
In mid-2015, The Villages Regional Hospital forged a relationship with Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS), the largest independent oncology/hematology practice in the United States.
As a result, FCS established The Villages Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer center offering medical oncology, radiation oncology, national clinical trials and a number of other treatments and services for cancer patients. Located on the first floor of the Sharon Morse Building, the center has seven medical oncologists, including Drs. Patrick Acevedo, Jennifer Cultrera, Maen Hussein, Vasundhara Iyengar, Sandeep Thaper, Ram Tummala and Marays Veliz; Dr. Sachin Kamath, a highly-respected radiation oncologist who joined FCS in 2015, also practices at the cancer center. (Locally, FCS has two other locations and three additional medical oncologists. Drs. Imad El-Jassous and Pablo Reyes practice in Lady Lake and Dr. Rakesh Rohatgi sees patients at his office on Buenos Aires Blvd. in The Villages.)
“Over the past 10 – 15 years, we have made tremendous progress in understanding and treating all types of cancer,” explains Dr. Maen Hussein. “We now are able to identify many genetic mutations that cause cells to grow uncontrollably. Through research, we have developed drugs that target certain genes or proteins at the molecular level and block the growth and spread of cancerous cells.”
Dr. Jennifer Cultrera points out another recent breakthrough in the area of immunotherapy, or therapies that boost the immune system so that it can effectively fight cancer. “Immunotherapy is a very exciting area that has resulted in fantastic outcomes against some of the most lethal cancers, such as melanoma, lung cancer and some types of leukemia and lymphoma. Also, there are currently a number of clinical trials studying the use of immunotherapy to treat other types of cancers that are showing great promise.”
Florida Cancer Specialists’ mission is to bring the most advanced cancer treatments to local communities, both large and small, across the state. FCS CEO Brad Prechtl says, “The Villages Cancer Center is a prime example of our commitment to our patients. What sets Florida Cancer Specialists apart from other community oncology practices is the size and scale of the organization and the investment we are willing to make in Sumter County so that our patients can receive the latest advances in cancer treatments and services, all under one roof, in a setting that’s close to home, where they can be surrounded by family
Dr. Sachin Kamath has seen that commitment first hand, as his radiation oncology practice has grown over the past year. “We have the Varian TruBeam™ linear accelerator, which provides the most advanced precision in radiotherapy treatment,” he says, “and now we are adding a second linear accelerator to accommodate the need and increase convenience for our patients. Plus, having the ability to work side-by-side and consult with the medical oncologists ensures our patients receive the most coordinated and personalized care.”
Dr. Kamath adds, “The FCS philosophy really is to not only provide the best cancer care possible, but also to make sure that we offer all of the other complementary therapies that are important to a cancer patient – nutritional therapy, exercise therapy, stress-reduction techniques, massage therapy, acupuncture. When you have an integrated, comprehensive care center like this, we can bring all of those therapies under one roof and offer them to our patients. That’s how we get those outstanding outcomes.”
When it comes to clinical research, Florida Cancer
Specialists has set a national benchmark for community oncology and has been recognized with a Clinical Trials Participation Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Through a strategic partnership with Sarah Cannon, one of the leading clinical trials organizations in the world, the clinical research program in The Villages offers patients more access to national clinical trials than any private oncology practice in Florida.
Dr. Patrick Acevedo explains, “Last year, there were
33 new cancer drugs approved for use in the U.S. and 70% of those new drugs were studied in clinical trials
conducted with FCS participation, prior to approval. What this means is that patients who qualify for and participate in a clinical trial can receive the most promising new treatments even before FDA approval.”
Genetic testing is another area that has become a game changer in the treatment of cancer. Like every individual, every tumor has a unique genetic profile that can provide critical information for diagnosis, treatment, and even predicting response to therapy. For example, physicians can now determine which drugs will be the most effective and produce the best outcomes for particular types of cancer, based on the DNA of the tumor.
Today, more people are surviving cancer than ever before. Nearly 14 million cancer survivors are currently living in the United States, reflecting advances in prevention, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, targeted treatments, immunotherapy and clinical research. The oncologists of Florida Cancer Specialists agree that many more innovations are forthcoming.
“While we do have cures or virtual cures in many cases of cancer,” says Dr. Hussein, “the truly great news is that, overall, cancer is becoming more like a chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension. We may not have a cure today – but the disease is manageable. You can live with cancer and have a good quality of life.”
With over 200 physicians and nearly
100 locations throughout the state, Florida Cancer Specialists is committed to providing world-class cancer care in community-based settings close to home. Visit FLCancer.com for more information.