Despite declines in cancer deaths starting in the 1990s, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in Arizona and nationwide.
The Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson works within the University of Arizona Comprehensive Cancer Center to provide specialty multidisciplinary care, cutting-edge research, and expert education and training for the next generation of hematologists and oncologists.
The field of oncology is in an exceptional period of advancement. With the recognition that each individual and each cancer is unique, we are rapidly increasing our ability to apply personalized medicine. The growth in modern therapeutics, such as targeted therapy matching a specific drug to a specific DNA signature or immunotherapies stimulating the body’s natural immune system to fight cancer, has made substantial inroads into treating patients with less toxicity. People are not only living longer with cancer but with a higher quality of life.
As division chief, I am inspired by this progress and the tremendous opportunities afforded by working within the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center headquartered in the State. As a comprehensive cancer center, we function in the context of multidisciplinary teams that cut across traditional academic structures. Each faculty member is a national expert participating in a high-functioning expert team in their specific disease area.
All team members have a stake in devising a coordinated and seamless treatment plan for the specific patient and their complex problems prior to the first cut, radiation fraction, or dose of chemotherapy. And each patient is considered not just for the standard treatment options but also clinical trials, bringing novel treatments from the laboratory to the bedside.
The cancer prevention field is also making exciting progress — this is a major passion of mine. We now understand and can prevent many cancers caused by infectious disease, such as those caused by HPV and hepatitis C. We also have increasing insight into the links between lifestyle factors such as tobacco, alcohol, and obesity and cancer. We work with other divisions within the Department of Medicine on preventive strategies and through our NCI-funded Cancer Prevention Clinical Trials Network to develop agents for cancer prevention.
In education, I am very proud of our Division’s Hematology and Oncology Fellowship, a three-year rigorous program to prepare fellows for a subspecialty in Hematology and Oncology. We prize the development of well-rounded physicians who are experts in both the discipline and in the communication skills needed to effectively partner with a patient during their cancer journey. Each fellow receives experience in research and teaching that, in addition to their clinical training, prepares them to pursue successful careers in an academic environment or a community practice.
Rachna T. Shroff, MD, MS
Interim Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology