Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tipping the Scales

The scales are once again tipping in Alabama's favor - or rather, not in our favor. According to a report released by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, our state once again ranks in the top 10 of our nation's fattest states.

Alabama weighs in at fourth for high adult obesity rates, behind Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia. Michigan rounded out the top five, and fellow Southern states Arkansas, South Carolina and Kentucky also made appearances in the top 10.

Obesity is a major risk factors for many diseases, including cancer. It accounts for nearly 30 percent of cases of the major cancers, including postmenopausal breast and colorectal cancers. It also poses a greater risk for endometrial, kidney, pancreatic and esophageal cancers.

Because of our location in the heart of the Deep South, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center has identified obesity and its connection to cancer a major research priority going forward. Our scientists are examining obesity from the cellular level to the population level, as we are leading studies enrolling hundreds of thousands of patients across the country to examine the roles that diet, nutrition and physical activity play in this epidemic.

More information about healthy eating can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov. I encourage you to learn more and help us make a difference.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Soak Up the Sun...With Protection

A favorite pastime for many of us during the summer is laying on the beach or splashing in the pool, especially in the heat of July. But while you are having fun soaking up the sun, remember to protect yourself from those harmful UV rays - the ones that can cause skin cancer, wrinkles, brown spots and spider veins.

More than 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, making it the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. About 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with sun exposure; therefore, you must protect your skin this summer! Remember these helpful tips:

  • Use sunscreen. Apply a minimum of 30 SPF sunscreen or moisturizer that protects against UVB/ UVA rays (look for the term "broad spectrum") and is water resistant.
  • Use the right amount. Apply one ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply every two hours. Even if the label reads "water resistant:" or "waterproof," you still need to reapply every couple of hours to ensure sweat or water did not wash your protection away.
  • Seek shade. Avoid the hottest time of the day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Cover up. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Do not burn.

Enjoy your summer while staying protected! Remember a temporary tan is not worth the consequences of cancer. For more information about skin cancer, visit the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention or the Skin Cancer Foundation.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Friday, July 13, 2012

SPORE grants set UAB apart

The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of few institutions to have been awarded three or more SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) grants from the National Cancer Institute. Currently the center holds SPORES in pancreatic and breast cancer and is partnered with John Hopkins University on a cervical cancer SPORE. Additionally, the Cancer Center was the only institution nationwide to receive a SPORE grant in pancreatic cancer in 2010. Why is this grant such a big deal?

It supports projects that will lead to the early detection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human cancers. Each SPORE is focused on a specific organ site, such as breast or pancreatic cancer. "SPOREs are designed to enable the rapid and efficient movement of basic scientific findings into clinical settings, as well as to determine the biological basis for observations made in individuals with cancer or in populations at risk for cancer," according to the National Cancer Institute.

Principal investigator Donald J. Buchsbaum, Ph.D., director of radiation biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, leads the SPORE program in pancreatic cancer. Support from the NCI was granted because of the Cancer Center's expertise in tumor biology, virology/gene therapy, immunobiology and targeted immunotherapy. Current research projects stem from previously established efforts that showed the most promise.

Kirby I. Bland, M.D., chair of the department of surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is the principal investigator of the SPORE program in breast cancer. In order to best accomplish the goal of prevention, detection, prognosis and therapy development, this project assembled many basic and clinical scientists, including molecular/cell biologists, pathologists, medical/surgical oncologists, experts in the development of new technologies, and biostatisticians.

There are currently 62 grants across 23 states in the country. UAB claims Alabama's only SPORE grants. Just another example of what sets the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center apart.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Comprehensive Mission

The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center was one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Act in 1971. The bill was enacted on December 23, 1971, and strengthened the National Cancer Institute’s effort against cancer by creating the National Cancer Program. Although the number of NCI-designated comprehensive centers has increased since 1971, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center remains the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Deep South including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia.

As of 2012, the Cancer Center is one of only 41
National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, and is home to more than 330 of the nation’s most recognized physicians and researchers for their expertise and advancement in oncology treatment and research. With our state-of-the-art technology and outstanding staff, we are able to treat approximately 5,000 new patients each year.
For more than 40 years our oncology team has proven to be among the best in the country, and we hope to continue to conduct research and provide unique treatment for our patients. Much of our success depends on the support of our community, for which we are incredibly grateful. We are confident that one day soon we will accomplish our mission of eliminating cancer as a major public health problem.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Designated for a Purpose

155,930 - the estimated number of new cancer cases in 2012 in the southeastern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, according to the American Cancer Society. In that six-state region, The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. It provides care for more than 20,000 patients, with more than 5,000 new cancer cases evaluated each year.

We diagnose and treat patients from all areas of the United States, as well as from different countries around the world. However, many of our patients come from Alabama and the five surrounding states to seek the care and counsel of one of only 41 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country. Because of the number of new cases each year in these states, the UAB cancer center strives to offer the best treatment to its patients, as well as advance the world's understanding of cancer.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, let us take this journey with you. If you would like to learn more, or donate to advance our cutting-edge research and treatment, visit our website.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Clearing the Air

If you don't think policy and excise taxes on cigarettes don't make a difference, I encourage you to check out an article recently published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In recent years, the state of California has systematically imposed excise taxes on cigarettes, banned smoking in public places through clean indoor air laws and helped residents of the state to stop smoking. Meanwhile, Alabama has done very little as a state to address these issues. In this article, entitled "Why Are Women More Likely to Die from Lung Cancer in Alabama?," researchers found that for Caucasian women born since 1933 lung cancer death rates in California have dropped by more than half while in Alabama they have more than doubled.

The evidence of policy impact could not be clearer! While Birmingham has recently taken a stand to enforce clean indoor air laws and tighten regulations on smoking in public spaces, the entire state of Alabama must continue to advocate for stricter policies across the board. Otherwise, I fear that we will continue to pay the price.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Developing Cutting-Edge Therapies to Offer More Clinical Trials

Did you know that our physicians and scientists at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center are on the cutting-edge of breakthrough therapies? This team of more than 350 physician-scientists is committed to developing and discovering the best therapy treatments possible for our cancer patients. In fact, many clinical trials offered at UAB use treatments that were created right here. When you come to our Cancer Center, you're often in the capable hands of the very doctors who developed your specific therapy.

We currently offer more than 120 clinical trials, many of which have led to the approval of cancer drugs, including Erbitux, Avastin, Rituxan, Herceptin, Zevalin and Bexxar. Millions of people benefit from the discovery of these leading-edge monoclonal antibodies. They not only help patients at the UAB Cancer Center, but those in hospitals and cancer centers all over the nation. Although our physicians and scientists have taken great strides in the race against cancer, they continue researching every day to discover new clinical trials that will help cancer patients around the world.

If you would like to learn more or get involved, visit our website at http://www3.ccc.uab.edu/.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alabama Ranks 24th in Ovarian Cancer Provision

A new report from Ovarian Cancer: A Call For State Action ranked Alabama 24th in the nation based on four categories affecting women with ovarian cancer. These categories include access to care, education, quality of life and research support.

California was ranked first, while Iowa, Kentucky and Maine were ranked 24th, along with Alabama. Susan Greene, executive director of the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation, cited the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center as a contributor to the top-notch research and care in the state.

Alabama received high marks for its legislative efforts to provide women with direct access to gynecologists and its provision for end-of-life and hospice programs. Greene said the state also offers many support groups for those with gynecological cancers. The Cancer Center always strives to inform its patients of these support groups.

The report indicated Alabama lacked laws addressing caps on co-payments, standing referrals to specialists and second opinions. The report did not include treatment outcomes, quality of care or the type of care given to cancer patients.

We are proud to be the only comprehensive cancer center in the state of Alabama, but also realize the great responsibility that accompanies this. Our scientists and physicians are working everyday to provide cutting-edge research that will make Alabama the best place for ovarian cancer provision.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Celebrating Cancer Survivorship

This weekend people all over the country gathered to celebrate life for National Cancer Survivorship Day. The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center hosted "Celebrating Life" at Regions Park on Friday to recognize thousands of cancer survivors and cheer on the Birmingham Barons. Many reflected on the hardships and treatments they overcame to get to the place they are today, and gave thanks for life. The event also featured educational opportunities, children's activities and giveaways.

While it is wonderful to celebrate on a specific day, let's not forget that survivorship is an ongoing issue. At the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, our doctors and researchers are working around the clock to give more patients a reason to celebrate next year's National Cancer Survivorship Day.
From bench to bedside, our center is at the forefront of improving cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and researchers here have pioneered advances in chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, and nutrition.

To see the progress we have made in our fight to win the battle against cancer, you can read survivors' stories on our website and celebrate their lives with us.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brain Tumor Awareness Month

As May comes to a close, there is one more awareness month that we need to pause and remember: Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Approximately 600,000 people in the United States are living with a brain tumor diagnosis, and nearly 60,000 children and adults will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year alone.

At the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, our scientists and physicians are working every day to seek a cure that will save the lives of these patients. Some of this research is conducted through our SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program, a $2.3-million grant from the National Cancer Institute that is designed to move scientific findings quickly and efficiently from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside. For example, one of the most promising projects of the SPORE involves using the herpes simplex virus to target and kill brain tumor cells while sparing the surrounding cells.

This is just one example of the innovative research being done at the Cancer Center. I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about our brain tumor research program and read stories of our patients whose lives were saved by the treatments they received here.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Think Twice Before Fun in the Sun

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we'd like to take this opportunity to remind you of the health hazards that come with too much sun exposure.

When referring to the summer season, many people associate the phrases "tanning" and "laying out" with summer fun. Although getting that perfect bronze tan for a few months may look great, it also has its potential consequences. Here are a few facts to illustrate just how serious skin cancer can be:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Special Thank You to Oncology Nurses

Hectic days in the hospital and clinics are not rare at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, but through it all, our oncology nurses are always there to offer help. With May being Oncology Nursing Month, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of our wonderful nurses for their hard work and dedication!

The Cancer Center is home to some of the best nurses in the country, and we're proud to have them on our team. Individuals undergoing cancer treatment need caring and compassionate people surrounding them, and our oncology nurses provide that to the highest level. For more than 40 years, our doctors and nurses and have helped save lives, and that's something we're extremely proud of.

On behalf of the Cancer Center and all the patients treated here over the years, I offer my sincere thanks to all of our nurses for their dedication and commitment to taking care of those in need.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Birmingham Becomes Smoke-Free!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of addressing the Birmingham City Council regarding the Clear Indoor Air Ordinance and its importance to the health of the citizens in our city.

The City Council heard from many sides of the issue, but in the end concluded with a unanimous vote to pass the ordinance. The new ordinance is among the toughest in Alabama, with a longer list of locations where smoking is prohibited,  including hotels, bars, lounges and outdoor patios.

This was, I thought, an historic event for Birmingham, and I applaud the council for their thoughtful deliberation and courage in moving forward with this. Birmingham now becomes the largest city in Alabama to go "smoke free." Maybe this will be the stimulus for a statewide smoke-free law. Let's hope so.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Disturbing Trend

Today's edition of The Birmingham News features a story that highlights a disturbing trend among Alabama teens - the increasing use of smokeless tobacco products. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, about 19 percent of high school boys in Alabama use dip, chew or other such products. The national average among this same age group is 12 to 15 percent.

This statistic is extremely concerning for many reasons. One is that if someone becomes addicted to tobacco at a young age, he or she is more likely to become addicted for life. This greatly increases their cancer risk, as smokeless tobacco can lead to cancers of the throat, mouth, larynx and stomach.

Another cause for concern is the misinformation surrounding smokeless tobacco. While we have made great strides in educating people about the dangers of cigarettes - and decreased the number of smokers in the process - many people believe that smokeless tobacco is less addictive and less harmful than cigarettes. Reports, most recently one by the Surgeon General, have shown that this is definitely not the case.

With April being Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage you to educate yourself and your children about the dangers of both smokeless tobacco and cigarettes by visiting the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and UAB Medicine websites. And when it comes to these products, remember to just say NO.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Young Professionals Help the Cancer Center Spring Ahead

Spring is always a busy time of year, and the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is no exception to that. Today I had the privilege of attending the quarterly meeting of our Young Supporters Board, which is busily preparing for its annual fundraiser, Fiesta Ball 2012.

It always amazes and inspires me to see the tremendous energy and enthusiasm these young professionals have for the fight against cancer. Each one of them has been touched by cancer in some way and have chosen to give back and make a difference.

Today we had the pleasure of watching a video from the Cancer Center's Life Stories series, which featured Mary Ann Harvard, a charter member of the YSB and a five-time survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma. By sharing her story, Mary Ann serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of research and why we do the work that we do.

I encourage you to watch Mary Ann's video and learn more about the YSB by visiting our website or YouTube. We would also love for you to join us to celebrate Cinco de Mayo for a cause at Fiesta Ball 2012 on May 3 at B&A Warehouse. You can learn more about that event (and purchase tickets) by clicking here.

Again, the support of our community is critical to the mission and success of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. As always, I thank you for everything you do to help us achieve our vision of eliminating cancer as a major public health problem.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

As the month of March reaches the halfway mark, how many of you have taken this opportunity to schedule a colonoscopy? My guess is not as many as there should be. Of all the major cancers, colorectal cancer screening procedures are probably some of the most feared and avoided - and misunderstood.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women. It is estimated that more than 141,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2011, and approximately 49,000 will die from the disease.

The good news is that colorectal cancer rates have been steadily decreasing over the last 20 years, and that is thanks to improved screening and early detection methods. Colorectal cancer is actually one of the most highly treatable cancers when it's found early. That's because most of these cancers start out as small, non-cancerous growths known as polyps. Early testing can find and detect these polyps, allowing them to be removed before they turn cancerous. Simply put, you can stop cancer before it starts.

There are several tests for colorectal cancer, with the most common being stool tests and colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum to allow the doctor to view the inner lining of the colon. Preparing for the test is more inconvenient than the procedure itself. In fact, people who are having a colonoscopy are given medicine to help them relax; many people sleep through the exam.

Both men and women, beginning at age 50, should have a colonoscopy once every 10 years, and perhaps more often if there is a history of colorectal cancer in their family. I strongly urge you to talk with your doctor or health care professional about which colorectal cancer screening procedure is right for you. Don't let a little discomfort get in the way of saving your life.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Record-Breaking Investment

On Saturday, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center hosted its annual ArtBLINK Gala at The Kirklin Clinic. I am extremely proud and excited to report that this year's solicitation campaign, led by the center's Advisory Board, raised nearly $1.5 million for the Cancer Center's Fund for Excellence. This is by far our biggest fundraising total ever!

The Fund for Excellence allows us to have flexible dollars that can be used to support high-priority areas where money is the most-needed. This includes research projects, recruiting new physicians and scientists, and services for patients and their families. With this money, we can invest in promising initiatives and help them grow into major successes.

Of course, I have to thank everyone who donated to our efforts this year, as well as all of our corporate sponsors. I also want to thank each of our 18 artists who shared their talents with us by creating artwork for our guests, which brought in an additional $28,000 to our total. The support of our community is critical to the Cancer Center's success, so believe me when I say that we couldn't do what we do without you!

I look forward to another great event in 2013 and to sharing our successes thanks to your investment in us - the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tremendous Thanks for a Tremendous Gift

BCRFA President Dianne Mooney
presents this year's donation.
Today, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center received an extremely generous donation from one of its most loyal and longstanding community partners, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama. The BCRFA hosts events and other fundraising opportunities throughout the year, and in turn donates all of its proceeds to the Cancer Center for breast cancer research. I was extremely grateful and proud to accept their donation today of $500,000 - their largest contribution yet, topping last year's record by $100,000.

Particularly rewarding today was honoring the two people who started the BCRFA. Dolly O'Neal and Bruce Sokol are two friends who came together with a joint purpose and a common goal: funding the research that would lead to a cure for breast cancer. What began as a small effort with just a few people has turned into an amazing organization that, to date, has raised more than $3 million for breast cancer research at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

That is one reason why it was so exciting to announce that in honor of Dolly and Bruce, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the O'Neal-Sokol Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama Endowed Professorship at its most recent meeting. This represents the tremendous impact they have had in the fight against cancer.

Part of that impact has been helping turn the Cancer Center's breast cancer research and clinical enterprise into one of the premier programs in the United States. And one of our leading breast cancer specialists is Dr. Andres Forero, who was also approved by the Board of Trustees to be the inaugural recipient of the new professorship. Dr. Forero has become a nationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of breast cancer, and the Cancer Center is extremely proud of his success and work.

The support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama is critical to our success here at the Cancer Center, and I am proud to have them as a community partner. They truly set the standard for a group who wants to make a difference in the fight against cancer. I thank them for their support.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't Forget to Make Your Cancer Resolutions

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year! For many of us, each January brings the opportunity for a fresh start by making a list of New Year's resolutions, which can be tough to keep, but well worth the effort.

Obviously, the most popular resolutions involve improving diet and increasing exercise. And for good reason, as there's no question that doing those two things can help improve your overall health. However, many people don't realize that as many as 30 percent of all cancers are obesity-related. So diet and exercise can not only help you lose weight, but it can also lower your risk of developing cancer.

There are some other "cancer resolutions" that I encourage you to follow this year, and they have to do with screenings for early detection.

  • Get a mammogram. Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and continue to do so as long as they are in good health. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of a periodic, professional health exam at least every three years.
  • Get a colonoscopy. Both men and women, beginning at age 50, should have a colonoscopy once every 10 years, and perhaps more often if there is a history of colorectal cancer in their family.
  • Get a Pap smear. Specialists recommend that women have their first Pap smears at age 21 and every one to three years afterward, depending on the person's age and medical history. When abnormalities are found early and treated properly, very few progress to cervical cancer.
  • Determine if prostate screening is right for you. Beginning at age 50, men should have a discussion with their doctor or health care professional to see if they should be screened for prostate cancer and what type of test is right for them. For men at a higher risk of the disease, those conversations should begin at age 45.
  • Stop smoking and stay away from tobacco products! Smoking causes between 80 and 90 percent of all lung cancers, and tobacco is a major cause of many types of head and neck cancer.

These are just a few ways that you can improve your health and either decrease your chances of developing cancer or increasing the chances of it being caught early. I urge you to contact your doctor or health care professional, and keep these resolutions for 2012. Simply applying the knowledge that we already know can make a huge difference.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.