Thomas Herzog, MD: The Foundation for Women’s Cancer

Thomas Herzog, MD, Director of Gynecologic Oncology and Professor of Clinical Gynecology and Obstetrics at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Herzog discusses his involvement with The Foundation for Women’s Cancer at ASCO 2011.

The Group Room at the 2011 American Association For Cancer Research Annual Meeting was made possible, in part, by:

 

 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Selma R. Schimmel, Founder & CEO, Vital Options International

This is Selma Schimmel at the annual ASCO meeting in Chicago, 2011.  And we have the opportunity to speak with key opinion leaders and physicians from all different areas and specialties.  And now we are joined by a gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Thomas Herzog; Professor of Clinical Obstetrics in Gynecology in the division of Gynecologic Oncology at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, New York.  Welcome.

Thomas Herzog, MD, Dir. of Gynecologic Oncology, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Univ. Med. Ctr.

Thank you for having me.

Selma R. Schimmel:

You are also the Awards Committee Chairman for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, which used to be, formerly called, The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.

Thomas Herzog:

That’s correct.

Selma R. Schimmel:

And I also would like us to raise the profile on behalf of the foundation for women’s cancer, it’s an amazing resource.  And, let’s talk first about the foundation and your work, and maybe help women understand the difference between a gynecologic oncologist, a gynecologist and a general oncologist.

Thomas Herzog:

Sure.  So, I think the key difference is that a gynecologic oncologist has additional years of training, 3 to 4 additional years in fellowship that is used to teach advanced surgical techniques as well as the practice of chemotherapy and other adjuvant therapies, additional therapies that are given for the treatment of cancer after finishing an obstetrics in gynecology residency.  So the concentration is completely in cancer.  A regular medical oncologist would have the training in chemotherapy but not the specialization in gynecology aspect of it, nor of course surgery.  And a regular gynecologist would, of course, be able to do surgery but not have any of the skill or knowledge base in cancer.  So, that’s really the chief distinctions.  So, if you have a gynecologic malignancy there’s very solid data, not only that has been published by gynecologic oncologists but independently, that has shown improved survival when treated by a gynecologic oncologist.  So I think that’s an important message to get out.

Selma R. Schimmel:

I really encourage women, even women who are going in for prophylactic procedures- let’s say there’s a woman who has the BRCA mutation who’s going in to have her ovaries out knowing there could be an incidental finding, I’m on the side- even though a gynecologist is very capable of doing a simple procedure like that, it isn’t so simple if there’s a complication.  And so, even for those types of procedures I feel that women should be seeking the expertise of a gynecologic oncologist.

Thomas Herzog:

Well, I think there’s a lot that goes into the counseling and some gynecologists, you’re correct, do have the knowledge base to be able to do that, but many do not.  And I think there is something to be said about someone who has that specialization, that additional knowledge that can help.  There’s also something that can be said about the surgical technique, interestingly, in that there are some studies that show that you absolutely have to get the entire ovary and if you clamp or cut very closely over it you may actually leave residual ovary, which in the case of a mutation could be deadly.  So I think there needs to be a lot of attention, as well, to the point that you bring up.  Some of those, or what we think are normal ovaries will actually have cancer that is subclinical until it’s looked at under the microscope.

Selma R. Schimmel:

And I think a lot of women don’t realize that in the example of ovarian cancer, that staging goes on in the operating room. So, if you do not have a gynecologic oncologist and there is a malignancy and something spills- I mean, you’ve got the pathologist in there already looking.  It’s a very unique cancer, unlike other cancers where the tumor is removed, you send it to pathology, you wait a few days, you get a report.  Gynecologic surgery, oncologic surgery is very precise and you have this, sometimes, interdisciplinary team right there in the OR.

Thomas Herzog:

Right.  And getting the right start with ovarian cancer, for example, is really critical.  That very first surgery, I think, makes a big difference in terms of which path that patient will go down, and ultimately her fate.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Well, let’s talk a bit about your role with the Foundation For Women’s Cancer.

Thomas Herzog:

I’m privileged to be the Chair of the Awards Committee and we just recently looked at some of our data- the foundation now is about 20-years old and we looked at our data up ‘til 2007 from the time we started giving awards, which was several years after the foundation was founded and what we were really looking for is to see what difference it made.  So a lot of these grants that were given were, what we call C-grants.  In other words, to get someone’s career started and to see if that, indeed, put them into a position to get competitive with others in terms of receiving larger awards from the government and so forth.  And what we found was basically a little over $2.5-million was leveraged into $58-million.  So over 23 full return on the investment, if you will, in terms of the dollars that came back to funding.  The other thing I thought was remarkable is that a very high percentage of the awardees are still in research, still trying to advance the cause, which is really the core root of what the foundation is all about.  The foundation is about raising awareness and it’s about raising research funds so that the field is furthered to make a difference so that hopefully in another year or another 5 years we see better treatments than what we currently have.

Selma R. Schimmel:

I also think you’ve done a marvelous job creating a website that is very patient-centric, very user friendly… it helps patients for anything from finding a gynecologic oncologist in their region to really explaining the various gynecologic cancers and treatments that are available.

Thomas Herzog:

The Women’s Cancer Network is the website and it is a fantastic website.  And I think the key is, as you said, I think it’s very user friendly.  I think that anyone would get something out of it.  I think it’s very well written at all levels.

Selma R. Schimmel:

If one is diagnosed or suspecting a gynecologic malignancy that the website will help you identify within your region a gynecologic oncologist.

Thomas Herzog:

That’s right, it has the links by area code that you can go to, which is fantastic.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Dr. Thomas Herzog; Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology in the division of Gynecologic Oncology, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

Thomas Herzog:

Thank you, Selma.

Selma R. Schimmel:

I thank you.

END OF VIDEO

 

 

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