In honor of Liver Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Julius Chapiro shares his motivation for treating patients with liver cancer and researching new treatments for the disease:
As we honor liver cancer awareness month, what do you want our patients and families to stop and remember?
Our patients go through a great ordeal since the day they are diagnosed. Liver cancer treatment takes a toll on patients and their families, and it’s important for everyone to be aware of this. As we honor liver cancer awareness month, we must think about these challenges for our patients and remember to be forgiving and supportive for those who face the challenges first hand. I also want to invite families and patients to be strong advocates for themselves as they confront healthcare and elected government representatives. Liver cancer research is significantly underfunded. Therefore, liver cancer research, despite being the fastest growing cancer in the United States, receives up to 5 times less NIH funding per death compared to other properly funded cancers such as breast cancer. This requires rapid change. We doctors and scientists cannot solve this on our own, and we need the help of our patients and their families to organize advocacy in private and public avenues. Let your voice be heard!
What is your lab/research currently focusing on?
Our laboratory focuses on designing new diagnostic tools and minimally invasive treatments for liver cancer. We work closely with biomedical engineers and basic scientists to develop new strategies that will allow us to allocate care in a more personalized way and treat each patient with the right therapy. We apply new molecular imaging techniques and artificial intelligence tools to meet these needs..
Can you translate your research into clinical practice to help patients?
Yes, our Interventional Radiology team has many ongoing clinical trials investigating the use of new imaging systems and therapeutic combinations for patients with liver cancer. We work closely with our colleagues from Hepatology, Oncology and Surgery to deliver the most innovative care to those who need it most. That’s why we’re being funded by the National Institutes of Health to investigate quantitative imaging biomarkers that help better define tumor response in patients that ultimately guide their treatment. We also work with multiple companies offering cutting-edge therapeutics in a joint venture to critically seize these opportunities. We follow the motto “From Code to Bedside” for our most innovative component, AI tools, and have numerous technology patents pending or approved.
What excites you most in the next year or two?
I am very excited by the rapid technological and biopharmaceutical advances that make liver cancer treatment more targeted and less invasive. As last year, we can offer cutting-edge treatments to more patients who are not qualified for these treatments. One of these exciting areas is FDA approval for internal radiation therapy with the versatile isotope Yttrium90. Another major area of innovation is the use of combined therapies that apply both image-guided minimally invasive approaches and targeted immunotherapy.
Mentoring is an essential part of lab research – what’s your favorite way to engage your team and learn from each other?
Our lab is incredibly diverse, with students and researchers from all over the world joining us, united by a shared vision to help cure liver cancer. We enjoy group activities together and have a wide variety of social activities that we do together on a weekly basis, which helps us build and build mentor-mentee relationships. At the same time, we have a natural atmosphere of curiosity and non-hierarchical learning, as we all care deeply about science and bring different talents to the table. It’s fun to be in the lab, and that’s the core of who we are.