80 year old James Barbato inspired Dr. Supriya Mohile to start the Geriatric Oncology Clinic at Wilmot Cancer Center. Four years ago, Mr. Barbato was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer. Because of his age, it might have been easy to dismiss aggressive treatment. But Dr. Mohile knew better. She's one of a handful of doctors in the U.S. who specialize in both geriatrics, and oncology.
"Lots of my colleagues will see patients who are 80-plus in their clinic, but the trials for that patient define treatment for younger patients," says Dr. Mohile. "There are no 80 year olds in the trial, so they usually ask me, do you think this patient should get this aggressive treatment?"
Because Mr. Barbato was otherwise healthy and fit, Dr. Mohile prescribed chemotherapy and surgery to remove three quarters of his stomach. Today he's cancer free. "I refer to her as my hero because she recommended a very aggressive type of treatment for me," he says. "She thought I could withstand it, and it worked out very well."
Doctor Mohile's work is gaining nationwide attention. Most cancers are diagnosed in patients over 65. It's the same with cancer deaths. The Geriatric Oncology Clinic in Rochester is one of just three such clinics in the northeast U.S. "We have a lack of data on how to treat older people with cancer." she says. "So using a program like this, we can look at the literature and see what are the best treatment options for the cancer, help patients come to a decision about treatment and provide extra support for patients and families when they're going through such a difficult time."
The clinic was started a year and a half ago. In that time, Dr. Mohile and her team have treated more than 200 patients. As the program grows, so does the field of geriatric oncology. Dr. Mohile is a pioneer.