AHN adds innovative liver cancer treatment, cancer fitness program to array of services available in North Hills – TribLIVE

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North Hills residents can now get life-saving treatment for liver cancer at AHN Wexford hospital in Pine instead of having to travel to Pittsburgh.
The healthcare system also is expanding the role exercise and nutrition can play when treating cancer patients and survivors with a new facility in the North Hills led by a physician with unique expertise. 
Allegheny Health Network officials say providing more access to treatments for liver cancer is critical because it often is not detected until later stages.
Cases of liver cancer also are nearly three times higher in men than women, according to the American Cancer Society.
While less common in the United States, liver cancer also is among the deadliest forms of cancer in the world, hospital officials said.
Because liver cancer symptoms often are not present when during the early stages of the disease, treatment can be challenging when it finally is detected because tumors are often too large to be removed by traditional surgical means, doctors say.
Oftentimes, late-stage liver cancer does not respond to chemotherapy treatment, they say.
To combat these problems, the minimally invasive radiation therapy that has been used at AHN’s Academic Cancer Institute at Allegheny General Hospital is being offered at the AHN Cancer Institute the Wexford hospital.
Known as Yttrium-90, or Y90, the process of “radioembolization“ is a minimally invasive treatment that combines embolization and high-dose radiation therapy to target inoperable tumors in the liver, according to hospital officials.
Embolization is a procedure in which substances are injected directly into an artery in the liver to block or reduce the blood flow to a tumor, according to the American Cancer Society.
“Not only can Y90 radioembolization extend and significantly improve quality of life for patients with liver cancer, but it represents a potential lifeline if curative surgery is made possible,” said Dr. Andrew Klobuka, who recently performed the first Y90 procedure at AHN Wexford.
Klobuka is the lead radiologist at the AHN Liver Cancer Center of Excellence at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
During the treatment, the radioactive isotope yttrium-90 is delivered through catheters directly to tumors without affecting healthy parts of the body, hospital officials said.
The procedure is designed to slow the growth of tumors and increase the chances that a tumor can be surgically removed.
Liver cancer patients and their family members who want more information about the Y90 therapy offered by AHN can call 412-442-2459. To schedule a cancer-related appointment at AHN or talk with a nurse about cancer diagnoses, treatments and side effects, call the AHN Cancer Help Line at 412-NURSE-4-U or 412-687-7348.
Treating the entire patient
AHN officials also have announced the addition of Dr. Colin Champ, a radiation oncologist who specializes in the role nutrition and fitness can play in improving the lives of cancer patients and survivors.
Champ will lead a unique exercise oncology program that is aimed at reducing the side effects of cancer treatments to improve a patient’s quality of life and the results of the treatments they undergo, according to hospital officials.
The program is being offered at a new 2,650-square-foot health and fitness facility located at the AGH Suburban campus in Bellevue.
Champ also will be practicing radiation oncology at AHN’s Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion, which is located adjacent to AHN Wexford Hospital along Perry Highway.
“I am thrilled to join such an innovative and patient-centered oncology team at AHN while also having the opportunity to build a new exercise program for cancer survivors,” Champ said. “I am passionate about healthy eating and exercise, and my goal is to give patients the tools they need to take charge of their own health, today and into the future.
“As clinicians and researchers, I believe we’ve just scratched the surface of learning how fitness and good nutrition can impact our patients’ lives for the better,” he said.
Champ previously served as an associate professor at the Duke Cancer Institute, where his research centered on the interactions between diet, exercise and metabolism.
The research also assessed whether weight training and other exercise helped improve overall health and cancer-specific outcomes in patients treated for breast cancer and lymphoma, according to hospital officials.
Studies have found evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to a lower risk of several types of cancer including bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney and stomach cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Obesity also has been found to be a risk factor for a number of types of cancer and can affect a patient’s quality of life and the likelihood cancer will return, according to NCI.
“Dr. Champ brings to AHN Cancer Institute a unique combination of expertise in radiation oncology and insight into the interaction between fitness, nutrition and cancer,” said Dr. David L. Bartlett, who chairs the AHN Cancer Institute. “His work fits well with our philosophy of treating the whole patient, not just the disease.”
The fitness program at AGH Suburban will initially be open to a limited number of patients who have been referred by their physician, hospital officials said.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony by email at tlarussa@triblive.com or via Twitter .
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