The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in DeKalb County is making leaps and bounds toward finding a cure for the disease and educating people on it.
Dr. Walter Curran, the institute’s executive director, talked about Winship’s plans and programs to tackle cancer at the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon last week at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel in Sandy Springs.
“Health literacy is a big issue. We (as doctors) have to understand how we explain it to people and (also) have to figure out what schools there are” to teach others doctors and residents, Curran said of how doctors have to improve their bedside manners before spelling out cancer diagnosis to new patients, so they understand better what the process consists of.
“Regardless of your level of education your ability to understand cancer is not that good. Doctors are (also) not necessarily good at explaining things (either),” he said. “We have found that videos graphically explaining how cancer works help tremendously.”
The institute is one of four National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the Southeast, said Curran, with the others in Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.
He also serves as a professor and chairman in Emory’s department of radiation oncology. He has been a principal investigator on many National Cancer Institute grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors, according to the chamber’s website.
Winship works to lessen the burden of cancer in Georgia by aligning the disease research and education with prevention and care, said Curran.
The institute’s scientists are also working on educational programs to reduce indoor smoking among low-income families. This program is being developed in southwest Georgia and it involves a help line and an educational program.
“It has reduced (rates) by 50 percent in families where at least one member smokes,” said Curran.
Winship focuses on three main cancer areas: prostate, breast and bone marrow, researching and developing tests to identify better and more targeted ways to treat specific types of cancer. One of Curran’s main concerns is “the death rate for prostate cancer is much higher in Georgia than the national average.”
Scientists at the Winship labs are looking at the genetics and genomes to understand that the distribution of cancer by race is different, which is important in Georgia.
“Our scientists identified a mutation of lung cancer is one of the most common ones. We are working on how to approach it,” Curran said of one of the most important advances that can lead to a treatment breakthrough.
The institute is getting ready to open a new clinical space in June with a 210-bed-capacity hospital tower dedicated to cancer treatments and transplant care. The hospital will be located at Emory University Hospital on its campus on Clifton Road.
Also at the luncheon, the chamber's 2016 board chair, Lever Stewart, passed the gavel to this year’s chair, Dan DiLuzio.