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Nathan Kim, M.D., Ph.D. Answers Questions On Breast Radiation Oncology

Nathan Kim, M.D., Ph.D. Answers Questions On: Breast Radiation Oncology

What should breast cancer patients know about UT Southwestern?

For breast cancer patients we offer state-of-the art therapies such as the deep inspiration breath-hold technique for patients with left-sided breast cancer, which helps spare the heart from radiation exposure. We have truly advanced and innovative clinical protocols such as the one-of-a-kind CyberKnife and GammaPod single fraction adjuvant treatment for breast cancer. At UT Southwestern, we are conducting clinical studies that are defining the next standard of care in breast cancer treatment.

Another key strength of UT Southwestern is the excellence of the staff. This includes our therapists and nurses who many of our patients see on a daily basis, as well as the physicists and dosimetrists who handle the technical aspects of radiation treatment behind the scenes. It really is a premier group of co-workers that I get a chance to work with. It makes me proud that the quality of radiation care that patients get here is absolutely top notch!

By working in an environment like this that is unparalleled, I feel like I can do my part to make a difference in the lives of breast cancer patients.

When did your interest in cancer begin?

During medical school, I had two immediate family members who got cancer, so that’s when I developed a strong interest. Both of them have done extraordinarily well, thanks to the advances in research that came during that period. They weren’t treated with the standard therapy; their treatment went beyond that, and they far exceeded the normal expectation for outcomes at that time. I gained a tremendous amount of respect for the field of oncology and the need for continued research. And with my education, I felt radiation oncology was a good area in which I could integrate engineering, biology, and clinical care all into one field.

What is your patient care philosophy?

Having family members who have gone through cancer treatment and benefited from it reminds me to treat my patients the way I would want my family members treated. That includes showing respect and compassion but also looking for every realistically possible option that’s out there for them. Evidence-based medicine is very important, but you also have to look at the patient as an individual. I try to individualize every case and use the evidence that is available and the new, upcoming clinical research that is available to try to provide patients with the best treatment plan. Finally, I don’t just believe in short-term care but really developing a relationship with patients for long-term care so it doesn’t end when their treatment ends. I really try to follow up with them and be a part of their survivorship process as well.

How has treatment of breast cancer changed in recent years?

Breast cancer is a field in which the combination of collaborative multispecialty care, advancements in technology, and high-level clinical trials have led to better survival and overall outcome. Many patients go on to experience a high quality of life despite having had cancer.

Because outcomes can be so good, it’s a field where we’re concerned not only about the treatment of cancer but also how to minimize side effects and better optimize survivorship. From a radiation oncologist’s point of view, we strive to use technology to reduce the side effects and improve the convenience of treatments in while improving cancer control rates. For example, at UT Southwestern many of our left-sided breast cancer patients are treated with cardiac-sparing techniques using state-of-the-art tools such as Vision RT (a video surveillance system that uses 3D modeling) or ABC (active breathing coordinator) devices to minimize long-term cardiac sequelae. These are tools that not every center has. Our latest clinical trial to treat patients with CyberKnife or GammaPod in one treatment speaks to our commitment to further innovating and improving our patients’ quality of life.