Innovative Tools for  FIGHTING CANCER

Innovative Tools for FIGHTING CANCERThe most effective fighters know their opponents well. This is especially true for physicians and researchers fighting cancer.

Each development in cancer research teaches us more about our adversary and how to fight it.

These breakthroughs come in all sizes. From a test that can read tiny particles of DNA in a tumor to a huge 220-ton proton therapy cyclotron, to pinpoint targeted radiation beams that kill tumors, we physicians have more ways – more innovative tools – than ever to fight cancer.

My practice, Texas Oncology, is committed to bringing these treatment options to Texans, ensuring that patients have access to leading-edge care. Some of the newer, powerful cancer-fighting tools include:

SRS uses a computer-guided therapy system to treat tumors and other abnormalities of the brain. SBRT is used to treat malignant or benign, small to medium size tumors in the body. Both are non-surgical procedures that deliver precisely-targeted radiation at much higher doses than some other forms of radiation therapy, with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue. SRS and SBRT are great alternatives to invasive surgery, especially for patients who are unable to undergo surgery to remove the tumor.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of treatment that delivers precisely targeted radiation to tumors, minimizing side effects and damage to surrounding healthy tissue, which helps patients maintain the quality of life during and after treatment. Proton therapy often is recommended for tumors in sensitive areas and is especially effective in treating children with cancer by minimizing damage to organs and tissues that are still developing.

Currently, only 11 proton therapy centers are operating in the U.S. Recently; Texas Oncology broke ground on the Texas Center for Proton Therapy, which is expected to treat its first patient in early 2016. To learn more, visit

Like normal cells, tumors also have DNA that determines how they will develop and how aggressively they will grow. Using tests for many genetic markers, physicians can assist in determining the right treatment based on a tumor’s specific characteristics. Using a sample of tumor tissue, doctors can rule out certain procedures, or confirm that they are necessary. This testing is not available for all cancers, but the list is expanding.

Currently, gene signature testing is available for breast, prostate, ovarian, colon and endometrial (uterine) cancer. Similar testing for lung cancer genetic markers is in clinical trials.

New developments in cancer research and technology are the result of dogged inquisitiveness by scientists and physicians, and the involvement of patients willing to participate in clinical trials. We need to understand cancer better so that we can fight it more effectively with the latest tools.

Today, many Texas Oncology physicians and patients participate in clinical trials and research studies to find more efficient tools and therapies, including trials in McAllen. We invest in these leading-edge tools and new research today so that more Texans can have healthier tomorrows. To learn more about how Texas Oncology helps Texans fight cancer, visit

Nirupama Shekar, M.D., Texas Oncology-McAllen