TOP cancer-care program turns 20

Jason Wallen, MD, center, contemplates a treatment plan for a lung cancer patient during a TOP multidisciplinary team meeting. (photo by Susan Kahn)

Jason Wallen, MD, center, contemplates a treatment plan for a lung cancer patient during a TOP multidisciplinary team meeting. (photo by Susan Kahn)

Thoracic Oncology Program relies on team care

Upstate’s Thoracic Oncology Program (TOP) is marking its 20-year anniversary.

TOP follows a “multidisciplinary” team approach. Specialists from multiple disciplines make up the team, which collaborates on the care of individual thoracic and lung cancer patients. Team members include medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, imaging specialists, pulmonary specialists, nurse practitioners with specialized training, nutritionists, social workers and patient navigators.

Such a team approach – which is typical at major cancer institutes – has been shown to significantly boost a patient’s survival.

The Upstate Cancer Center has several multidisciplinary teams for various types of cancers, including breast cancer, head and neck cancers, gastric and esophageal cancers, and pediatric cancers.

Leslie Kohman, MD, championed the team concept at Upstate two decades ago “because it gives better care to the patient, and it saves the patients a tremendous amount of time in appointments,” she says.

(Leslie Kohman, MD, explains how TOP works to create treatment plans for lung cancers and other cancers of the chest, in this “HealthLink on Air” interview.).  

She notes that almost all cancer patients need more than one type of treatment. “Very few patients are treated with just surgery, or just chemotherapy or just radiation,” Kohman says. “To have experts from all those disciplines discuss treatment up front is very beneficial to the patient.”

Thoracic surgeon Jason Wallen, MD, is medical director for TOP. He says the team approach means every patient has all options open for discussion. “It’s like getting eight or 10 second opinions all at once, in a single visit.”

Such team care is natural at an academic medical center, where doctors and caregivers are encouraged to seek input from one another.

Upstate Health magazine fall 2019 coverThis article appears in the fall 2019 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Click here for the full online version of the magazine.

This entry was posted in cancer, health care, HealthLink on Air, lung/pulmonary. Bookmark the permalink.