Endometrial cancer expert Dr. Emily Ko explains health considerations and other key factors that may impact options when determining an optimal treatment approach for each patient.
Dr. Ko, what goes into determining a treatment approach for an individual patient? Is there key testing that helps guide a patient’s prognosis and treatment options?
Absolutely. So, I think the key pieces of information come from several sources. First, we do take the whole patient into account, like baseline health, baseline function, meaning every day, how active are you? Are there limitations to your daily activities? Looking at baseline health conditions, what we call comorbidities. Are there other health conditions, like diabetes, heart conditions, lung condition, kidney conditions, that could really impact a patient’s overall health and well-being? That is always part of it, number one.
Then, we look specific to the cancer details. So, from all the pathology information, biopsies, followed by a surgical staging procedure, what exact stage, what exact substage, and we might even look at other unique features. Was there cells that got into the lymph vessels, the lymph nodes? Are there other just features from a pathology standpoint that are important, like the – I talked about microsatellite status, microsatellite instable versus microsatellite stable.
Those are all information we can gather from the tumor tissue itself. That then kind of tailors our therapy. And then, like I was saying, now we’re going into this molecular era where we can actually take that tumor tissue and even do more expanded testing on it.
So, I think it’s worthwhile to talk to your provider and say, “Hey, would it be worthwhile to send my tumor out for expanded testing, whether it’s done at your institution, at a specialized lab, or whether it’s sent out to a company that does expanded testing?” Because then, they might be able to test for 500 different genetic signatures, a much more broad panel, but that might open the door for opportunities to say, “Hey, you actually do have a very unique signature, and maybe it is worth tailoring your therapy even further.”
So, I think these are very important questions to have with your provider, and these pieces of information can help guide the prognosis. I think we’re always asking what does this mean long-term, and I think when we have all these individual pieces of information, we can then give guidance on that.
I wanted to get your point of view on why is it important for patients to engage in their care and their treatment decisions?
Right. I think that it is so important. Medical treatments, I think, do work the best for the patient when the patient is truly an active participant, and what I mean by that is I think we can really understand the patient if there’s a conversation, there’s a mutual discussion, and I think every patient has unique circumstances, has unique goals, has…whether it’s just the daily whatever responsibilities, or just either health or non-health concerns that they have, we want to be able to find a treatment that fits the patient, and we realize that one treatment doesn’t fit all.
And so, the more, I think, that there is this mutual discussion, mutual understanding, then there’s a mutual decision treatment plan that is made, and there’s the more ability to modify that plan when – if you realize, oh, maybe we can tailor it, maybe we try one thing, and maybe we realize we got to change a little bit.
And, I think that with a cancer condition, it is a journey. It is not just a one-time thing. It really is a journey, and I think that the more a patient can participate throughout that journey, I think the better the outcomes for the patient, and honestly, the better the treatment course will be for everyone participating.
Why should a patient consider finding an endometrial cancer specialist? What are the benefits?
So, I think naturally, an endometrial cancer specialist is a provider who spends more time thinking about the disease, reading about it, looking at what’s the newest research studies that are coming out, what are the available clinical trials here, locally, regionally, or nationally, what are other support services available for the patient in the space.
And, of course, probably the folks that do the most surgeries gear towards endometrial cancer patients, and so, I think just working in that space naturally then brings more resources and more opportunity for the patient to kind of really know what’s out there, what is the newest, and I think that really benefits the patient.