Leading-Edge Cancer Care: Providence Offers Some of the Latest Technologies and Treatments in the Fight Against Cancer

October 01, 2012

No one ever wants to hear the words, “It’s cancer.” But if you do, Providence Health & Services is poised to help you battle back with some of the latest treatments and technology.

From robotic instruments that work more precisely than a surgeon’s hands to radiation that targets the disease while sparing surrounding healthy tissue, Providence mobilizes the expertise of our physicians with advanced technology to treat cancer.

And we never lose sight of the compassion that every patient deserves. “We can put the bells and whistles on this and use robotics on that, but really listening to the patient and providing comprehensive care for the patient and family—from prevention to survival to palliative care—that’s how the philosophy of cancer care is changing,” says Vijay Trisal, MD, a City of Hope surgical oncologist who treats patients at Providence Holy Cross and Providence Saint Joseph Medical Centers.

Here are some of the advanced treatment options and expertise patients find at Providence.

Robotic Surgery

Providence Saint Joseph and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance utilize the da Vinci Si robotic surgical system, which broadens the range and precision of cancer surgeries available to patients in the Valley and South Bay.

Garrett Matsunaga, MD, a board-certified urologist who is fellowship-trained in robotic oncology, says the No. 1 case he performs in Torrance is robotic-assisted removal of the prostate for cancer. “With laparoscopic instruments—tiny, 1-centimeter instruments that have 270-degree articulation—you can operate with a lot more ease and accuracy,” Dr. Matsunaga says, adding that surgeons properly trained in robotics have high levels of success in sparing nerves in these very delicate procedures.

Robotic partial-kidney removals are his second most common robotic procedure.

“When we are taking out small tumors, we’re able to leave 80 percent or more of a healthy kidney,” Dr. Matsunaga says. This compares with traditional surgery, which sacrifices nearly 50 percent of the kidney, he says.

At Providence Saint Joseph, surgeons are trained to use robotics for prostate, cardiothoracic, kidney and gynecologic cancers. And most recently, Dr. Trisal, surgical oncologist at City of Hope, has offered nerve-preserving resection for rectal cancer at Providence Saint Joseph. “We have been pioneers in rectal resection and we were the first ones to do the procedure with the robot,” he says.

Targeted Treatments

While surgical advances represent one new frontier in cancer treatment, the ability to target treatments through chemotherapy and radiation is another front line in innovation.

“In medical oncology, the treatment approach has changed,” Dr. Trisal says. “Previously we used chemotherapy to kill all the cells. Now we only target the ‘unhealthy’ cells, and this often involves radiation techniques that can pinpoint the bad cells and spare the good ones in the surrounding area.”

The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center at Providence Saint Joseph is equipped with the latest in targeted radiation treatments, including image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which improves precision and accuracy, and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance also offers targeted treatments such as IMRT, IGRT and respiratory gating, which tracks moving tumors. Critical organs such as the brain, spinal cord and lungs can be protected while radiation beams are aimed more accurately at the cancer and targeted tissue.

Providence Holy Cross has a partnership with Vantage Oncology, which gives patients access to IMRT as well as cutting-edge 3-D image-guided radiation therapy and other targeted radiation techniques.

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro and Providence Tarzana Medical Center also offer advanced oncology services, with top medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons who provide the latest in chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Specialized Care

Providence Health & Services places high priority on attracting skilled surgeons and clinicians whose expertise set them—and us—apart.

In the South Bay, surgical oncologist Moshe Faynsod, MD, brings expertise to the most complex breast cancer cases. “Breast-specific oncologists keep up with the latest treatments, which are changing all the time. Treatment is very fluid,” he says. In fact, when it comes to breast surgery, he urges women to see a breast surgeon or a surgical oncologist rather than a general surgeon. “Studies show that survival rates are simply better,” he says.

Lana D. Louie, MD, FACS, a new breast surgeon at Providence Tarzana, brings to the role a passion for helping patients understand the bigger genetic picture related to certain breast and ovarian cancers. “When Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy, she highlighted surgical management for her type of genetic mutation. Unfortunately, very few made the connection with ovarian cancer, which is more deadly than breast cancer and also is a concern for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations,” she says. “In these individuals, screening for ovarian cancer is extremely important.”

Partnership with City of Hope

Benjamin Paz, MD, a City of Hope surgical oncologist, explains the partnership between City of Hope and Providence Saint Joseph and Providence Holy Cross Medical Centers. “For some time, City of Hope has been committed to expanding our services outside our own doors. We partner with community hospitals in order to complement services they already provide,” Dr. Paz says.

The relationship helps strengthen Providence’s already high level of cancer care, as evidenced by the skill Drs. Paz and Trisal bring to advanced cancer surgeries for complicated pancreatic, liver, stomach and esophageal cancers. “This brings Providence’s level of expertise up to the level of a specialized cancer center like City of Hope,” Dr. Paz says.

Looking Ahead

At Providence Saint Joseph, Richard Friedman, MD, has become one of the leading surgeons in Los Angeles County for single-incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) hysterectomies. “If you want a single-incision hysterectomy in the L.A. area, it’s pretty clear: We’re one of the best places to go,” he says.

While he currently applies the technique only to benign hysterectomy or uterine fibroid cases, he is trained on the da Vinci surgical system for gynecologic cancer surgeries, and anticipates the day when robotic instruments will be suited for single-incision work. “We’re readying for the next generation of technology that will allow us to do single-incision robotic surgeries for cancer,” he says.

Meanwhile, Dr. Louie believes the day is coming soon when genetic testing clarifies risks—and screening and treatment options—for a broader range of women at high risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

No matter what cancer diagnosis you or a loved one faces, Providence Southern California is dedicated to leading the charge into next-generation frontiers—both in terms of acquiring the latest technologies and partnering with physicians who have the training, expertise and skill to use them.