Large Study Reveals Long-Term Outcomes for Prostate Cancer Patients Treated with High Dose, Short Term Radiation like CyberKnife Radiotherapy

WASHINGTON –– A large, national study examining a radiation treatment for prostate cancer––popular because it delivers a high dose of therapy in a very short time frame––supports its routine use. 

The study, conducted at cancer centers around the United States including at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, looks at long term follow up data for stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) used to treat more than 2,100 men with prostate cancer that had a low or intermediate risk of recurring.

The results were published Feb. 8 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, the therapy is delivered by a system called CyberKnife, which delivers high doses of radiation precisely aimed to minimize the involvement of healthy surrounding tissue.

Radiation oncologist Sean P. Collins, MD, PhD, says curative treatment is a shared goal along with maintaining a person’s quality of life.  Side effects, including impotence, can occur with all treatments for prostate cancer and can happen years after treatment.

“While it is necessary to observe these men for decades, our interim seven-year data show that survival and side effects are comparable to other forms of radiotherapy,” says Collins, director of the CyberKnife Prostate Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and an associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University. 

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which establishes cancer treatment guidelines, classified SBRT as an alternative to conventional therapy, but had noted a lack of long term follow up data. There is much more experience with conventionally fractionated radiation therapy, delivered five times a week for up to nine weeks, and brachytherapy, in which radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate.

“Our findings give us great confidence that CyberKnife should become a standard option for some men who want to avoid the hassle and inconvenience of standard therapy,” Collins says.

 

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Collins reports receiving grants from and being a paid consultant for Accuray Inc., the maker of CyberKnife.

 

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MedStar Georgetown Specialist Leads Targeting of Huntington’s Disease Symptoms Through New Guidelines

An international group of experts, led by MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Karen Anderson, MD, recently published new clinical guidelines focusing on the treatment of behavioral symptoms seen in patients with Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s disease is a fatal genetic disorder that impairs physical and mental abilities as movement-controlling cells die in the brain. It’s estimated that 70% of American patients with the disease do not receive specialist care; instead seeking treatment from general practitioners, general neurologists, and psychiatrists.

“These guidelines convey the important message that we have treatments available now for many neuropsychiatric symptoms of HD. This should encourage patients to seek care. They also help non-specialist clinicians understand that HD is a not a hopeless condition,” explains Dr. Anderson, director of the Huntington’s Disease Care, Education, and Research Center (HDCERC), a joint program between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Georgetown University Medical Center.

The guidelines, published in the Journal of Huntington’s Disease, provide primary caregivers with a stronger set of tools and specialist-led strategies to treat five behavioral symptoms of the disease: agitation, anxiety, apathy, psychosis, and sleep disorders.

Before publication, Dr. Anderson and the panel of nine others submitted ideas to Huntington’s disease experts around the world to reach consensus. Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) like these can be relied on in the absence of randomized clinical trial evidence, which is harder to obtain when studying rarer diseases.

“We encourage patients and families to use these guidelines to partner with their clinicians when seeking care since these symptoms often have a huge impact on patients’ wellbeing and their relationships with individuals close to them,” advised Dr. Anderson.

Currently, there is no treatment available to slow, stop, or reverse the course of Huntington’s disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

For more on the newly published guidelines, visit: https://www.iospress.nl/ios_news/expert-based-clinical-guidelines-focus-on-behavioral-symptoms-in-huntingtons-disease/

 

 

 

 

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First Patient in a Clinical Trial Using Her Own Blood to Personalize Treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Experiencing Remission

WASHINGTON – The first cancer patient to be treated as part of the CAR-T cell clinical trial at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital through Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is now in “complete remission.”

Diggs receiving her car-t cell therapy
Daisy Diggs

Daisy Diggs, 67, of Laurel, Md., volunteered for the experimental treatment after a lengthy battle with stage-three non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Following her diagnosis in 2015, the mother of two and grandmother of four, developed several tumors that could not be eliminated with chemotherapy alone.

“I had tumors in my lymph nodes, hip, pelvis, neck and right kidney. They couldn’t get a handle on it,” Diggs says. “I’ve been getting chemo for two and a half years. Each time I would have some [tumor] shrinkage and then they would grow. I thought, ‘Well, the chemo isn’t working for me, let me try this.’ I’m glad I did. I see these T-cells as Pac-Men circulating in my body and eating up the cancer.”

Diggs joined the phase 2 CAR-T cell (axicabtagene ciloleucel or KTE-C19) clinical trial to test its safety and effectiveness, which had only become available two years after her diagnosis. Starting in the summer of 2018, she began receiving the experimental therapy, which uses her own immune system to destroy the cancer.

CAR-T cells are made in a medical lab using a component of the patient’s white blood cells. There, the patient’s natural, disease-fighting T-cells are “supercharged” with synthetic receptors that target proteins commonly found in cancer. About two weeks later, the patient receives lymphodepleting chemotherapy and the CAR-T cells are then infused into the patient. Thereafter, the CAR-T cells are expected to attack the tumors. The goal is that the CAR on the T cells will bind to and kill cells that express CD19, a protein that is found on B-cell lymphomas.

Ms. Diggs receiving CAR-T cell infusion
Ms. Diggs receiving CAR-T cell infusion on July 23rd, 2018

“The CAR-T cells are genetically modified to recognize specific antigens present on the tumor and, once infused, target the tumor like a missile,” says Pashna Munshi, MD, associate clinical director of the Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program, a joint program between MedStar Georgetown and the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack/Meridian Health.

“Once the CAR-T cell engages the tumor, it gets activated and proliferates multifold thereby eradicating the lymphoma rapidly.”

CAR-T cell therapy carries many risks. Patients can experience drops in blood pressure, high fevers, neurological problems and even death as the body reacts to major changes in the immune system. For Diggs, the risks of the experimental treatment were outweighed by the potential benefit.

“While we’re very pleased with the results of Ms. Diggs’ treatment through this clinical trial, it’s important to remember that this is only a single experience of the 80 participants who will be enrolled nationwide. We don’t know if others will have the same or similar response or for how long the treatment will be effective,” says Dr. Munshi, assistant professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “Still, hers is exactly the early result we had hoped for. She is in complete remission at three months after her CAR-T infusion and if she continues to remain in remission at the six month point, it could signal a promising chance for a long-term remission for Ms. Diggs.”

“I had to meet all the criteria for this - go to the dentist, get all these tests done, biopsies,” she recalls. “At first I was nervous because I didn’t know how it would turn out. They explained the risks and told me all the bad things that could happen. But I figured that nothing else was working and that whatever happens, happens but if it’s good, it’s going to be wonderful.”

Diggs has reported few side effects limited to only muscle pain. After her first PET scan in October, doctors could no longer find any evidence of cancer. In only three months, her tumors had disappeared.

Ms. Diggs hugging Dr. Munshi after learn that her cancer is in “complete remission” thanks to her car-t cell treatment.
Ms. Diggs learns that her cancer is in “complete remission” on October 18th, 2018.

“We’re giving it the ol’ one-two punch,” Diggs says. “I always say we’re shutting that party down. Before it was like a party going on in there. They shut part of it down, but they moved someplace else. Now it’s hopefully going to be shut down for good.”

Axicabtagene ciloleucel, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as Yescarta for relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma, a blood cancer; but is not approved for follicular lymphoma or indolent non Hodgkin lymphoma. Very common side effects include cytokine release syndrome with symptoms including fever, nausea, headache, rash, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and trouble breathing. Most patients have a mild reaction, but sometimes, the reaction may be severe or life threatening. Anemia (lack of cells that carry oxygen) and neutropenia (a decrease in white blood cells) are also very common.

This clinical trial is sponsored and designed by Kite Pharmaceutical, a Gilead Company. Dr. Munshi occasionally serves as a paid scientific consultant for Kite Pharmaceutical.

For more information about this trial, please contact Julie Verna at 202-444-0960.

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The Washington Capitals Join Pediatric Patients for Holiday Fun

(Washington, D.C.) - The Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals lifted holiday spirits during the team’s annual December visit to patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

The team, alongside mascot Slapshot, arrived by bus to meet children and families, including those spending the holidays in the hospital’s pediatric inpatient units. The Caps also played games, signed autographs and created artwork with families gathered inside the Lombardi Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic.

“Days like today, when you can have the entire Washington Capitals hockey team visit, provide such an incredible and necessary distraction from illness,” said Laurie Strongin, CEO of the Hope for Henry Foundation.

Strongin started the foundation 15 years ago after her son, Henry, was treated at MedStar Georgetown. This year, Hope for Henry provided Stanley Cup Championship gear like tote bags, pennants, apparel and more to make sure no child left the party empty handed.

Elsewhere in the clinic, players went from the ice to the icing while helping children decorate a colorful gingerbread house. It was just one of the art projects organized by Tracy’s Kids, a non-profit art therapy program for children suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses.

Families also enjoyed cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake and participated with Caps players in Flashes of Hope, a photography project that honors patients and raises money for pediatric cancer research.

MedStar Health serves as the Official Medical Provider of the Washington Capitals.

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Brendan McNamara 
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Prostate Cancer Patient Does His Research and Chooses Proton Therapy to Treat His Aggressive Disease

Dr.-Lischalk-with-Denwiddie(Washington, D.C.)  When Melvin Denwiddie, 73 was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2016 his physicians first told him the “watch and wait” strategy would be sufficient.  But in 2017 further testing showed that his cancer had become more aggressive and it was time to get treated.

“My prostate cancer was potentially fatal if I didn’t start treatment,” says Denwiddie. “My choices were surgery to remove the prostate, traditional radiation or proton radiation,” says the great-grandfather of three. “I did my research and I wanted proton therapy.  I found that proton therapy would be the most accurate; it would follow the shape of my tumor and would penetrate only the tumor and not any of the tissue outside of the tumor.  That was very important to me.”

That’s when he found proton therapy at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and his radiation oncologist, Jonathan Lischalk, MD.

“It’s important to sit down with patients and discuss their treatment options,” says Dr. Lischalk. “For localized prostate cancer, a variety of treatment options exist including surgery and radiation therapy.  Even within radiation therapy, many options exist including proton therapy, x-ray-based therapy, and brachytherapy.  Helping a patient understand his treatment options, the related side effects, and the clinical outcomes is extremely important.”

The proton therapy system at MedStar Georgetown is the first and only in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and is the first in the world to offer proton therapy with HYPERSCAN™ technology. HYPERSCAN produces beams that are sharper than other proton systems and treats patients faster.

Denwiddie received 43 proton treatments over the course of July through September 2018.

“From my standpoint, proton therapy is a very good treatment process. It was not invasive, it wasn’t painful and I experienced very few side effects,” says Denwiddie.  “Aside from my bladder becoming overactive, it was a pretty easy treatment from beginning to end.  And any side effects I had are getting better.”

With proton therapy complete, Denwiddie continues with hormone treatments for his prostate cancer under the care of his urology team at MedStar Georgetown.

Denwiddie with Dr. Lischalk in an exam room
Melvin Denwiddie (left) and Dr. Lischalk (right)

“Proton therapy is proving to be an excellent option for prostate cancer treatment,” say Ryan Hankins, MD, a urologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “From a urology standpoint, I am able to use a small needle through the skin to place the needed fiducial markers and gel spacer to help improve patient outcomes and make proton therapy more precise. This is done with no incisions on the skin. Dr. Lischalk and I also coordinate patient visits to help make the patient's visit to MedStar Georgetown as seamless as possible.”

Denwiddie is a retired accountant for NASA but continues to prepare tax returns and represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service. “It’s a labor of love I’ve been practicing since 1972.  It’s such a pleasure to know that I can continue to help people when they need it in this way.”

With his wife of more than 50 years newly retired and his prostate cancer treated, Denwiddie looks to the future with optimism and excitement.

“I feel confident that this prostate cancer is a thing of the past. The rest of my life, I’m looking forward to enjoying the freedom and flexibility to move around and travel with my wife.  That includes visiting family and places I haven’t had the opportunity to see yet. I’m very excited about my future.”

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Brendan McNamara 
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MedStar Georgetown Joins Elite Group of Hospitals, Only 50 in the Nation, to Receive Prestigious Magnet® Designation for a Fourth Consecutive Time

(Washington, D.C.)  - MedStar Georgetown University Hospital proudly announces it has achieved Magnet® designation for the fourth consecutive time by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).  MedStar Georgetown is now one of just 50 other institutions in the United States to be recognized by the Magnet Recognition Program® four times in a row.   

MedStar Georgetown was the first hospital in Washington, D.C. to achieve Magnet status back in 2004.

“I am so incredibly proud of our nurses,” says Michael C. Sachtleben, president of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “We are honored to be acknowledged by the ANCC’s Magnet Recognition Program and to achieve this prestigious designation for a fourth time.”

On a conference call today, the ANCC representatives shared the outcome of a recent site survey and agreed that MedStar Georgetown has met its rigorous expectations of quality and nursing excellence.

 “While the Magnet designation allows us to attract and retain top nursing talent, it is not strictly a ‘nursing’ recognition,” says Eileen Ferrell, MS, BSN, RN, chief nursing officer at MedStar Georgetown. “This designation can only be attained through the highly functional and collaborative work between all departments and associates here at MedStar Georgetown.  It also means our nurses are involved in clinical research and performance improvement, all in the best interests of our patients.”

ANCC bestowed its first Magnet designation in 1994 with the idea that the honor would act as a “magnet” for excellence by promoting professionalism in nursing. Magnet recognition is seen as the highest accolade a hospital nursing system can achieve.

A study found better patient outcomes in hospitals whose nurses had achieved Magnet recognition.  The research results were published in the October 2012 issue of Medical Care, the official journal of the Medical Care section of the American Public Health Association.

“Our nurses at MedStar Georgetown exhibit the highest of standards when it comes to professionalism and excellence in caring for our patients,” says Sachtleben. “I know I join all of my colleagues here at MedStar Georgetown in expressing how grateful we are for their role in taking their profession to such a high level of quality and excellence.” 

Magnet recognition is bestowed upon an organization for a four-year time frame, and an organization that desires to continue to be recognized must re-apply for the designation.

 

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital with 609 licensed beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis—caring for the whole person—MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.

MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership.

About the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program®          

The Magnet Recognition Program® administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the largest and most prominent nurses credentialing organization in the world, recognizes healthcare organizations that provide the very best in nursing care and professionalism in nursing practice. The Magnet Recognition Program serves as the gold standard for nursing excellence and provides consumers with the ultimate benchmark for measuring quality of care. For more information about the Magnet Recognition Program and current statistics, visit www.nursecredentialing.org/magnet.

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Brendan McNamara 
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Son Donates Kidney for Dad on His Own Busy Schedule, Thanks to New Program

In Season of Giving, Family is Thankful for the Gift of Life

(Washington, D.C.) A Virginia father has received a kidney transplant thanks to his son’s organ donation five months earlier and a program that is reducing another barrier to living donation, time.

In March 2018, 48 year-old Ivan Jones was surprised to be diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. He needed a transplant. 

“I knew right away that I wanted to donate a kidney to my dad,” says Amir Jones, 20.

But father and son’s blood types were incompatible. If Amir wanted to donate to his dad, the next option was to participate in the paired kidney exchange program so Ivan could be matched with a compatible living donor.  The schedule of testing and the intricate logistics of a paired kidney exchange made the date of his father’s transplant unpredictable.  Adding to the time pressure, the younger Jones had already been admitted to a prestigious research program at Princeton University which started in June.  As a senior studying Global Affairs at George Mason University, this was an important chance for Amir to learn from experts in his field. And graduation was scheduled for December 2018.

“In March he was already set to go to Princeton,” says Ivan Jones. “As his father, I didn’t want to hold him back and I didn’t want him to miss this important opportunity.  I know he worked hard to get accepted to the program.  But knowing my son, I knew he was going to figure something out so he could do both things.  It’s just who he is.”

Fortunately for father and son, they were able to participate in the Advanced Donation Program through the National Kidney Registry which would allow Amir Jones to do both. Amir could donate a kidney on his father’s behalf by scheduling his surgery at his own convenience. His father could then receive a voucher for a living organ in the future.

“Because living donation is the best option for recipients, transplant programs are trying to use this option in every possible way,” says Seyed Ghasemian, MD, transplant surgeon and director of Transplant Urology at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute. “This NKR program is making it possible for Amir to continue his education and continue with his plans, and for his father to receive a kidney from a living donor.  We expect nothing but long term success for both of them.”

“As one of the largest paired kidney exchange  programs in the country, we’re very fortunate to have a dedicated living donor team to make these types of innovative donations and transplant opportunities happen for our patients,” says Matthew Cooper, MD, director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at the MGTI.”

In late May 2018, Amir had surgery to donate his kidney to someone in the Washington, D.C. area.

Ivan Jones spent the summer getting worked up for his transplant.  Then in October, a living donor match in San Diego was offered to Ivan through the NKR. On November 14, about five and a half months after Amir’s donation, Ivan Jones had his kidney transplant.

Dr. Ghasemian performed both Amir’s kidney donation as well as his dad’s kidney transplant.

“At first I was frustrated that I couldn’t be a direct donor to my dad,” says Amir.  “But after realizing that I could help not only him, but someone else, was a real moment of gratitude for me.  Two weeks after my surgery, I was packing up my car and driving off to New Jersey for my program,” says Amir. “I’m just so grateful for this opportunity that allowed me to continue with my plans and for my dad to receive a kidney from a living donor.”

“It’s been overwhelming and amazing at the same time,” says Amir’s mother Pinky Jones.  “With Amir being 20, I realized he wasn’t asking me, he was telling me he was going to do this. And he was saving his dad’s life so there wasn’t much I could protest about that.”

“It’s been amazing that at there’s a program like this,” says Ivan.  “I just had no idea.  This is such a blessing. Amir is really big into helping others around the world. And now he’s helped not only me, but someone else in need.”  

As part of his curriculum at George Mason, Amir has traveled around the world to study other cultures. He is vice president of George Mason’s chapter of UNICEF and he works with a mentoring program that helps struggling high school students in Fairfax County.

Amir will be followed closely by physicians at the MGTI for a mandatory period of two years. After that Dr. Ghasemian recommends he visit his primary care provider for regular checkups.

“Very few transplant centers in the world have the resources or the experience with logistics and organization to be able to offer this to their potential donors and patients,” says Dr. Cooper.  “This shows MGTI’s high level of investment and belief in paired kidney exchange as one critical way to offer creative transplant options. We also have significant living donor benefits not offered at most centers to support and protect donors who give the gift of life.”

After graduation in December 2018, Amir plans to apply to law school with this experience behind him.

“I’m just so thankful for all that my dad, my family and I have been able to be part of this,” says Amir. 

More than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the United States.

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Brendan McNamara 
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MedStar Georgetown First in the Washington, D.C. Area to Perform Minimally Invasive Adult Brain Surgery Using a Robot

(Washington, D.C.) - Epilepsy patients looking for a minimally invasive alternative for brain surgery have a new option thanks to a novel tool that lets surgeons perform brain surgery with the help of a robot.

MedStar Georgetown is the first and only center in the Washington, D.C. area to offer this new option for adults with epilepsy.

ROSA Brain™ is a surgical navigation and positioning system using robotic technology that allows surgeons, through a tiny three millimeter opening in the skull, to place electrodes, which detect seizures in the brain.  Traditional methods require a more invasive craniotomy and shaving a patient’s head.

“About 30 percent of patients with epilepsy don’t respond to medication,” says Christopher Kalhorn, M.D., FACS, neurosurgeon and surgical director of the Movement Disorders Program and the Epilepsy Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

“For this group of people who don’t respond to medicine and for whom debilitating seizures are a daily threat, surgery can be a good option for eliminating their seizures.”

The surgeon uses ROSA Brain and its planning software to create a 3D map of the patient’s brain and plan out the pathways needed to carry out the procedure. ROSA Brain is aligned to the trajectories outlined by the surgical plan, and the surgeon carries out the surgery using the robot as a guide. ROSA Brain provides robotic alignment of the planned pathway which allows the surgeon to access deep brain targets for the placement of electrodes, all without a craniotomy.

“Conventional brain surgery for epilepsy requires a craniotomy, which is the surgical removal of part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain,” says Dr. Kalhorn.

This common surgery is invasive and can lead to long recovery times.

“Using Rosa Brain through a tiny opening in the skull, I can offer a much less invasive option for my patients who recover quicker and with less pain than before.”

ROSA RobotAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3.4 million Americans either take medication to try to control seizures, or have had at least one seizure in the past year.

Minimally invasive surgery using ROSA Brain may allow surgeons to lower operating time and eliminate the need of traditional craniotomies.

“The beauty of this technology is while it’s mainly used for epilepsy surgery, it can also be used for other brain surgeries like biopsies, endoscopic brain surgeries as well as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders,” says Dr. Kalhorn.

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Brendan McNamara 
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New Treatments for Hepatitis-C Open New Possibilities for People Waiting for Kidney Transplant

Elliott Stevens

(Washington, D.C) Elliott Stevens of Maryland has a new kidney and is cured of hepatitis C after a transplant and treatment at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute that includes the use of newly approved anti-viral medications.

Stevens, 60 was diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease in 2015.  He needed a transplant as soon as possible.  But because of his blood type and a national waiting list of nearly 100,000 patients, he was told his wait could be seven to eight years. In addition to having kidney disease, Stevens contracted hepatitis C after a blood transfusion he received as a child.

“I had to go on dialysis right away.  I know it saved my life but dialysis really tore down my body,” recalls Stevens, recently retired after 28 years at FedEx.  “I was hooked to a machine for four hours a day, three days a week and afterwards all I could do was crawl back into bed to rest.  I missed my wife and two daughters and could no longer travel.”

But in March of 2017 Stevens got a call from MedStar Georgetown.  A kidney was available. The catch was that the kidney was from a hepatitis C – positive donor.

“For more than a decade we have been using kidneys from hepatitis C-positive donors for some recipients already infected with the virus,” says MGTI Transplant Nephrologist Alexander Gilbert, M.D. “We can safely give hepatitis C-positive kidneys to patients who already have hepatitis C because in that case there is minimal risk of transmitting the disease since the patient has already been exposed.  Once we get the kidney into the recipient, we can then go back and treat the recipient and cure the hepatitis C. The newest advance in this process is better, more effective treatments for hepatitis C.”

And that’s just what happened in the case of Elliott Stevens.

“I have some family members who have high blood pressure and other health problems that mean they couldn’t be a living donor for me,” says Stevens. “I was weighing that seven year waiting list in front of me and being on dialysis and I looked at my wife and daughters and said, ‘yes I want to take a chance on this and spend more time with them,’” says Stevens.  “I didn’t want to wait seven years getting to a critical state medically where I might not be able to survive a kidney transplant.”

“This is exciting because in Mr. Stevens’ case we were able to shorten his wait time from seven or eight years, to barely 400 days, and then cure him of his hepatitis C,” says Matthew Cooper, M.D., director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at the MGTI.

Estel Swayne

Estel Swayne, 60 of Maryland had a similar experience.  After living with diabetes since 1997 she found out in 2015 that she had contracted hepatitis C.

“While I was waiting for a kidney transplant, I was on dialysis,” recalls Swayne.  “I was so absolutely exhausted all the time.  I just went to dialysis and all I wanted was my bed.”

“We know that dialysis is not a comfortable or easy way to live. Studies show that patients live significantly longer with a kidney transplant versus dialysis,” says Dr. Cooper.

After a few months on the list for a kidney at MedStar Georgetown, Swayne received a kidney from a deceased donor who was hepatitis C-positive.  

“I already had hepatitis C, so it wasn’t going to make a difference to me,” says Swayne.  “It’s not like they could give me something I didn’t already have.  I knew I couldn’t stay on dialysis too long or other things should start happening to me and I might not be a transplant candidate.”

“What’s made this possible is the advent of new anti-viral medications approved in 2015 that we expect to permanently cure a patient of their hepatitis C more than 95% of the time, with few side effects and only a short course of treatment, about 12 weeks,” says Dr. Gilbert.  “The old hepatitis C medications only worked 60% of the time, came with serious side effects and had to be taken for six months or longer.”

“The last time I came for my checkup, there was no sign of hepatitis in my body,” says Stevens.  “I consider this a win-win.  I no longer have kidney disease and I am cured of hepatitis C.  I am so grateful and I feel wonderful. I am back to taking walks with my wife, spending more time with my daughters and I’m back to volunteering in my church.  I could not be happier.”

After her transplant in September 2016 and a course of the new hepatitis C medication, Swayne’s blood work confirmed that she is free of the hepatitis C virus.

“I feel great. I actually have the energy to do things,” says Swayne.  “I like to fish and hike and spend hours and hours in my garden.  I hadn’t been able to do these things in quite some time. I go all over the place now.”

Mr. Stevens with his family.
Mr. Stevens with his family.

“Our next step is to transplant hepatitis C-infected kidneys into carefully selected patients who need a kidney but do not have hepatitis C and then treat them for hepatitis C after transplant,” says Matthew Cooper, MD, “Our goal is to get them off the long waiting list and return them to their lives.”

The MGTI plans to increase the availability of kidneys from hepatitis C-positive donors through future studies.  

A recent study of 20 patients without hepatitis C, who received hepatitis C-positive kidneys, found that all were free of the disease after transplant and treatment. 

“This could be a game changer,” says Dr. Gilbert. “This wouldn’t be for everyone but could be ideal for patients who don’t do well on dialysis and who face longer wait times.  Their only choice for a new kidney might be to receive a kidney from a hepatitis C-positive donor, then get treatment for hepatitis C after transplant.”  

“I hope I can encourage others with my successful outcome along the way,” says Stevens.  “I just feel so grateful to my donor and to my Georgetown transplant team, that I hope I can give back what someone has given me, which is a second chance at life.”

Media Contact

Marianne Worley
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Pager: 202-405-2824
[email protected]

Brendan McNamara 
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Office: 703-558-1593
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MedStar Georgetown Radiology Chair Dr. James Spies Awarded Society of Interventional Radiology’s Highest Honor

James Spies, MD, MPH, and chair of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Department of Radiology, has been chosen to receive the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Gold Medal, the Society’s highest honor. The Gold Medal is awarded to individuals who, through outstanding achievement, advance the quality of patient care while also ensuring the future of interventional radiology.

Dr. Spies joined MedStar Georgetown in 1997 after working in private practice and serving four years in the United States Air Force. His practice and research in Uterine Embolization for fibroids has received acclaim internationally, where he is recognized as an authority on the procedure. Spies has published over 100 scientific studies and delivered more than 400 invited presentations on the topic which he continues to study at Georgetown, along with several other areas of interventional radiology.

“The Society of Interventional Radiology has been my professional home for 30 years and I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to help advance the patient care our specialty provides,” Spies said. “I am truly honored to receive this award and, when I reflect on its past recipients, am humbled to be counted among them.”

Before receiving the Gold Medal, Dr. Spies has sat on many SIR committees, serving as chair of the SIR Foundation from 2006 to 2008 and SIR President from 2014 to 2015. According to SIR, only 60 individuals have ever been honored with a Gold Medal. The award will be presented during the SIR 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting in Austin, Texas, which runs March 23rd through 28th.

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