Liver transplant offers new option for rare cancer

Christopher Sonnenday, M.D., M.H.S.

Robert “Buzz” Gehle thought the itchy rash he was experiencing was a recurrence of an earlier case of shingles. But when his doctor saw he was also jaundiced, he immediately knew there was a problem with Gehle’s liver.

Gehle was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma – cancer in the bile duct – in October 2009, and it soon became clear that traditional surgery would not be an option.

Instead, doctors at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center started Gehle on chemotherapy and radiation and ran him through a series of tests to determine if the 65-year-old was otherwise healthy enough for a possible new treatment – liver transplant.

Liver transplantation is often used for cancer that occurs within the liver. But U-M is one of a small number of centers around the country to offer a transplant for cancer of the bile duct, a long tube-like structure that connects the liver to the intestines.

Bile duct cancer can be extremely difficult to remove surgically, and even when surgery is an option, the cancer frequently comes back.

“This is a tumor we have always struggled with,” says Christopher Sonnenday, M.D., M.H.S., assistant professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School. Sonnenday, a transplant surgeon, is part of the Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Historically, transplant has not been thought to be a great treatment for cancer. What we’ve learned in recent years is that if you select patients very carefully and find the right patients, those patients can potentially be helped by transplant,” Sonnenday says. Continue reading

Finding the right doctor to treat pancreatic cancer

Finding a doctor can be a daunting task, particularly if you’re facing a pancreatic cancer–a relatively rare, but deadly, diagnosis. Diane Simeone, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s pancreatic cancer research program, recently offered tips to the Lustgarten Foundation about how patients can find the best care for them. The Lustgarten Foundation is a private organization that funds pancreatic cancer research. Each year, 38,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Visit the Cancer Center’s website to read the interview.

 

PsychOncology Clinic offers tools for coping

After Michael Daly was diagnosed with cancer, he felt alone. He didn’t know what to expect with his treatment and, in the early days, some of his doctors didn’t offer much encouragement about his prognosis.

Daly was prescribed a medication to treat his anxiety and depression, but after a while, it stopped working.

“I found myself not wanting to get involved in my life and just vegetating,” Daly said. “I wanted to get back into control of it, because I didn’t want to spend my days waiting to die. I needed to get over that hump.”

By then, Daly had chosen a new approach to treatment that brought him to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. His oncologist suggested he consult with the Cancer Center’s PsychOncology Clinic.

Staffed by social workers, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners, the PsychOncology Clinic provides assessments to Cancer Center patients to determine their level of distress and individual needs. The team then develops an action plan to help patients get the assistance that’s right for them. Continue reading

Organic curiosity: Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic?

A cancer diagnosis often makes people re-evaluate their eating habits, inspiring many to incorporate more organically grown foods in their diets. Some people buy organic because of concerns about the environment, pesticides or animal welfare. Others perceive organic foods to be more nutritious. But considering the higher cost, is there any evidence that organically grown food offers more health benefits than conventionally grown food?

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s dietitians tackle this question in their latest nutrition column for our patient publication, Thrive. In addition to weighing the pros and cons of eating organic food, the dietitians offer lists of foods that typically contain the high and low levels of pesticides when conventionally grown, so that you can spend your money more wisely.
Visit Thrive to read the full story.

Pharmacist’s Corner: Get answers about vitamin D

Vitamin D is the media darling of the supplement world: Studies have linked it to lowering the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. But is it hype? Or should you be paying more attention to your vitamin D intake?

For most people, the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 15 mcg or 600 IU per day, according to pharmacist Emily Mackler and registered dietitian Danielle Karsies, both of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Symptom Management & Supportive Care Program. The best way to get it is to eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks or milk fortified with the vitamin.

To learn more about the potential of vitamin D and whether you should be taking a supplement, view the video above. Or, get more information about living with cancer at mCancer.org.

Preserving the future with sperm banking

Some cancer treatments may cause infertility, but not all. That’s why it’s important to speak to your doctor and to think ahead. Sperm banking is a good option for men who are at risk of infertility: Many children have been born using sperm that has been banked as long as 25 years.

But it’s key to talk to your doctor about it before treatment begins. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center recently became a participating partner in the Sharing Hope Program, which offers financial assistance for cancer patients seeking to preserve their fertility.

We talked to Marcia Leonard, co-director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program, about what men with cancer need to know about sperm banking. Read the full Q&A at the Cancer Center’s Living with Cancer site. Or, watch the first installment of a seven-part video about what young men should expect if he elects to bank his sperm.