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Research News at Vanderbilt

Idrees receives award for cancer outcomes research

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Kamran Idrees, M.D., MSCI, assistant professor of Surgery, has received a Young Investigator Award from the Society of Surgical Oncology Foundation (SSO). The award supports innovative concepts designed to improve health outcomes through advances in the delivery of care.

Kamran Idrees, M.D., MSCI

Kamran Idrees, M.D., MSCI

Idrees, who joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2012, said the one-year award “was an unexpected honor and was awarded to evaluate the impact of health literacy on cancer outcomes.”

The Vanderbilt Center for Effective Health Communication already administers a brief health literacy screen to patients who are admitted to the hospital or visit certain clinics. Patients are asked if they are confident in filling out medical forms, whether they need assistance to read the hospital material and whether they have difficulty understanding written medical information.

More than 10,000 cancer patients treated at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) have already participated in the screening.

Idrees, along with colleagues Kelvin Moses, M.D., Ph.D., and Sunil Kripilani, M.D., will assess the health literacy scores from cancer patients whose disease outcomes are tracked through the Vanderbilt Cancer Registry. They are studying patients diagnosed with the top 18 types of cancer including lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers.

The investigators want to answer whether there is a relationship between health literacy and cancer outcomes (overall and cancer-specific survival) or adherence to guidelines-based treatment protocols.

“In the first stage we want to look at it on a global level, and eventually our goal is to look at specific cancers and see how it impacts outcomes,” Idrees said.

Idrees said Vanderbilt’s large information repositories give the investigators unique tools to study these population health outcomes.

Idrees is also director of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancy/HIPEC Therapy Program at VICC, which is part of the Vanderbilt Regional Cancer Therapy Program.

Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) is used for cancers found in the abdominal cavity. These difficult-to-treat cancers that impact the abdominal lining (peritoneum) including colorectal, appendiceal, certain ovarian tumors and mesothelioma, do not respond well to traditional chemotherapy delivered through the bloodstream.

HIPEC treatment begins with surgical removal of all of the visible tumors. Then a chemotherapy drug is heated and the solution is administered directly into the abdominal cavity for approximately 90 minutes.

“We give them a higher dose of chemotherapy inside the abdominal cavity, and the logic behind it is the tumor is confined to the peritoneum or abdominal cavity surface only, so you can give a higher dose of chemo. It isn’t well absorbed into the bloodstream so you treat only the affected organs or region and minimize the side effects of the chemotherapy to the rest of the body,” Idrees explained.

Heating the chemotherapy to at least 42 degrees centigrade (107.6 F) is thought to enhance the cancer-killing properties of the drug.
VICC is one of a handful of cancer centers in the nation offering the HIPEC treatments.

Media Inquiries:
Dagny Stuart, (615) 936-7245
Dagny.stuart@vanderbilt.edu