Changing way of going at cancer

Fox Chase Cancer Center is quickly becoming a national leader in minimally invasive oncology by applying a procedure commonly used for gallbladder removal to the treatment of cancer.

Surgeon Dr. Paul G. Curcillo uses laparoscopy, in which a thin scope is inserted through small incisions, to perform exploratory diagnostic surgery and to remove tumors produced by a variety of cancers, including lung, prostate and ovarian.

Curcillo joined Fox Chase Cancer Center last month as the “director of minimally invasive surgical initiatives and development.” He is world-renowned for pioneering single-incision laparoscopy, simplified from the four cuts traditionally used.

Compared to open surgery, laparoscopic incisions are smaller, the risk of complications is reduced and recovery time is drastically shortened. For cancer patients, this can mean the ability to start life-saving treatments more quickly.

“They don’t have to say, ‘Oh, I have cancer and I’m going to have a big incision and pain. I have to sit around for a month before I can get chemo and start to recover,’” said Curcillo. “Now you can put in a scope and they can get chemo in three or four days.”

Curcillo sees the procedure as part of the future of oncology, which is moving toward less invasive and more targeted initiatives. “Wouldn’t it be nice if cancer treatment could be like treating hypertension? That’s where we need to go,” he said.

“Before it used to be someone had cancer, got a big operation, had big chemo, had big radiation. Now they get small surgery, super-focused chemo and super-focused radiation. All of the sudden the patient’s the focus, not the cancer.”

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