Northwell launches new Pancreatic Cancer Center

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Former pancreatic cancer patient Toni Fabric and her surgeon Dr. Matthew Weiss. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health’s Pancreatic Cancer Center opened last week in New Hyde Park, a new division of the network’s cancer institute that will provide treatment and post-treatment support and conduct research.

As part of the new center, the health network is leveraging a partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to develop new pancreatic therapies, according to Northwell.

“Diagnosis and treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer can be very challenging because the cancer is usually detected late, making treatment complex,” said Dr. Richard Barakat, physician-in-chief and director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, last  Wednesday. “Northwell has designed its new center with renowned experts in all aspects of pancreatic cancer, including diagnosis and staging, surgical, medical and radiation oncology, as well as palliative care.”

Dr. David Tuveson, who directs Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s cancer center, is working with Northwell pancreatic cancer specialists and researchers from his institution to develop the cancer therapies.

Tuveson is also chief scientist of the Woodbury-based Lustgarten Foundation, which is the country’s largest pancreatic research funder, according to the foundation.

More than 56,000 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Only 34 percent of localized pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years past diagnosis.

Toni Fabric, a Chicago resident and Long Island native, had pancreatic surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in March.

Dr. Matthew Weiss, the surgeon, removed parts of her pancreas where cancerous tumors originated, and Fabric no longer has detectable cancer, he said. Earlier this month, Fabric turned 50.

“We stare down cancer and we will win,” Fabric said. “I am looking forward to walking into Dr. Weiss’s office two years from now and saying, `I am a survivor.’”

Fabric had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2017. Because of the location of the tumor and spreading cancer, her doctors told her surgery would never be an option. She underwent 33 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

She then spoke with Weiss. At the time, he was working at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but in February he joined the Northwell Health Cancer Institute. He suggested that Fabric have surgery because the chemotherapy had been shrinking her tumors.

“No two pancreas cancers are the same and the goal in certain cases like Ms. Fabric’s is to offer surgery only as a cure,” Weiss said. “Three months after Ms. Fabric’s surgery, there is no detectable cancer.”

Weiss is Northwell Cancer Institute’s deputy physician in chief and surgical oncology director.

“After meeting with Dr. Weiss, for the first time I felt hopeful again and confident in him,” Fabric said at the Pancreatic Cancer Canter’s opening.

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