Unintentional pioneer: Tim Card is Penn State Cancer Institute’s first patient in cutting-edge cancer treatment

Tim Card and his wife, Tricia, walk the hallways of Penn State Cancer Institute after he receives CAR-T cell therapy infusion. Their backs are toward and the camera, and they are silhouetted against a window. Tricia puts her hand on his back. Tim is pushing an IV pole, and an IV bag with medication hangs from the pole. A rainbow is painted on the window.

Hours after his CAR-T cell therapy infusion, Tim Card and his wife, Tricia, walk the hallways of Penn State Cancer Institute.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Looking back, there were clues that Tim Card would soon be fighting for his life—his body was sending signals that he was misreading.

Because who would ever think a 40-year-old owner of a CrossFit gym and father of seven suddenly would have an aggressive form of cancer?

“I knew I was ‘off,’ but I couldn’t pinpoint it, and it wasn’t all the time. I figured I was just tired,” the Mt. Joy resident said, recalling how he felt in September 2017.

Then, a month later, he got a pain in his side that wouldn’t go away and finally took him to the ER. Had he pulled a muscle? Eaten something that didn’t agree with him?

Five biopsies later, the unfathomable was suddenly real: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, centered on his left side with cancerous lymph nodes above and below his diaphragm.

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January 16, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Penn State mounts broad attack on opioid addiction in Pennsylvania

A low-angle view of Captain Jennifer Fan, acting deputy director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, speaking at a podium. Behind her is a screen with a PowerPoint slide and a blue curtain below it. Fan has short, brown hair and wears glasses.

Captain Jennifer Fan of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention discusses new substance abuse prevention initiatives at Penn State College of Medicine’s Addiction Symposium.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

A startling 13 to 16 people die each day in Pennsylvania due to opioid overdose, among the more than 70,000 Americans who succumbed to the epidemic in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That gives Pennsylvania the dubious distinction of being ranked near the top of opioid-related death rates in the U.S.

“Alcoholism is still the most common substance use disorder, but it has been eclipsed by the opioid crisis because people are dying,” says Dr. Sarah Kawasaki, medical director of the Advancement and Recovery opioid addiction treatment program at Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. “It’s killing people in the prime of their lives. Children are without parents. The number of deaths is what makes this epidemic so important.”

That’s why the clinicians, researchers and administrators with Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine have united to fight the opioid crisis. Their weapons are evidence-based clinical treatment, research and education, and they are aiming at every phase of the problem ― from pre-addiction through treatment and recovery.

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January 9, 2019 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

Leadership Academy expands horizons of emerging leaders

Dr. Thomas Ma and Holly Roush are sitting behind a desk, talking to each other as they look over information related to the strategic leadership session. Roush is writing something down as they talk. Two other participants are sitting at a desk behind them and talking to each other.

Dr. Thomas Ma, front row, right, Department of Medicine chair, talks to Holly Roush, operations director of the Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute, during a strategic leadership session at the Leadership Academy.

By Carolyn Kimmel

From his clinical and academic vantage points, Dr. Todd Felix didn’t realize how much today’s competitive health care marketplace impacts the mission of Penn State Health.

After spending five eight-hour days at the Leadership Academy of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, the assistant dean for clinical medicine in the Department of Family and Community Medicine understood the challenges much more clearly and found himself better able to lead.

“I got a much broader view of Penn State Health’s strategic plan, which is very helpful,” Felix said.

As a leader of a group of physician educators in multiple departments, all with different priorities and experiences, he sees change as inevitable.

“This course helped me see the importance of style preference among my team—originators full of new ideas to conservers dedicated to keeping things running smoothly—to be successful in implementing change and staying relevant, current and visionary in the education mission,” he said.

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December 19, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Focus on emerging technology brings better patient care

Henry Thomas, age 3, of Boiling Springs holds a 3D printed model of his own heart. He stands in front of a background with Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals logos. He is wearing a polo shirt and pants. The model of his heart is on a white plastic block and resembles a gnarled tree.

Henry Thomas of Boiling Springs holds a 3D printed model of his own heart. He had surgery in 2017 to repair a coarctation of the aorta.

By Carolyn Kimmel

When Dr. Robert Tunks sits down with the concerned parents of a child found to have a heart defect, a 3D model of their child’s heart can go a long way in fostering understanding of the treatment options.

The model, generated from data collected from the child’s CT scan or MRI, gives doctors the ability to study a 3D replica of the heart and blood vessels that is unique to that individual patient. This allows for the medical team and families alike to be as prepared as possible prior to a child undergoing surgery or other intervention.

“This technology improves our ability to counsel families in a meaningful and compassionate way,” said Tunks, a pediatric cardiologist at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “It’s such a valuable resource for us and one that directly benefits the patients we care for.”

Rapidly evolving 3D technology was one of several timely topics presented at the 8th Annual Innovations in Healthcare Technology Conference sponsored by the Technology Council of Central PA (TCCP) and hosted by the Center for Medical Innovation at Penn State College of Medicine on Oct. 8.

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December 12, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Lifesaving lymphoma treatment comes to Penn State Cancer Institute

A graphic of a large, round CAR-T cell with oval-shaped protrusions touching a cancer cell. The cancer cell is round and has tentacles resembling an octopus.

CAR-T cells recognize CD19 antigens on the surface of lymphoma cells as targets for their killing action.

By Abby Sajid

For people with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, treatments can be limited. Enter a new treatment called Yescarta. Yescarta, or axicabtagene ciloleucel, can be nothing short of “miraculous” for these patients, according to Dr. Shin Mineishi, a medical oncologist at Penn State Cancer Institute. Based on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the Cancer Institute is the only hospital in central Pennsylvania that offers this last-resort treatment for certain cancer patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Yescarta in October 2017 for adult patients with a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called large B-cell lymphoma if their cancer fails to respond to chemotherapy or returns after two or more treatments. Yescarta is for adult patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma, high grade B-cell lymphoma, and DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma.

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December 5, 2018 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

Custom made for her: New Jersey woman finds new life in heart valve device made at Hershey Medical Center

Denise Brown, who suffers from aortic stenosis and needed heart valve replacement surgery, sits with Dr. John Conte at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Brown is sitting in an exam room on a chair next to Conte, who is sitting on a stool next to a desk on which his laptop sits, open. Brown wears a cannula in her nose to assist with breathing.

Denise Brown, left, talks to Dr. John Conte about how she feels since he implanted an apical aortic conduit into her heart last February.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Denise Brown is no stranger to adversity. Incredibly, she battled four types of cancer by the time she turned 3 years old.

Her latest triumph is overcoming life-threatening heart valve surgery, which, she says, is thanks to God—and this time—to Dr. John Conte, program director, cardiac surgery at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

“I kind of felt like I was unworthy,” said the 49-year-old New Jersey resident. “I said ‘Why me?’ He said, ‘You can’t live without it.’ I felt like a princess getting her pony for the first time.”

Because existing valve options wouldn’t fit Brown’s underdeveloped left ventricle, scarred from radiation, Conte sought special permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconfigure an old device. Next, he approached the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Division of Applied Biomedical Engineering to produce it.

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November 28, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Virtual reality helps Penn State Health St. Joseph pediatricians solve a problem

Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice, holds virtual reality goggles. The device in his left hand looks like a purple box. A cable connects it to headphones that are set on the counter. Dr. Lee is smiling and wearing glasses, a sports jacket, dress shirt and khaki pants. Behind him is a window with a shade. Next to him are wooden cabinets covered in signs. On the counter is a file stand with files.

Dr. Jerry Lee shows the virtual reality goggles that he uses for some patients to distract them from medical procedures.

Doctors at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice had a problem.

A patient – a 13-year-old boy – was recently in need of immunizations. Doctors also wanted to draw blood, as the boy was taking psychiatric medications that call for routine monitoring.

The problem was that the child, who had recently moved to Reading and was living with his grandmother, was suffering from the results of severe sexual and physical assault, explained Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at the Downtown Campus.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions resulting from abuse made it extremely difficult for the patient to interact with doctors or allow anyone to touch him.

“It’s really a sad situation,” Lee said. “He’d been through a lot, and even with some medication to calm him, he couldn’t tolerate these procedures.”

After doctors had twice attempted to treat the boy with no success, Lee started thinking outside of the box.

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November 14, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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