Hindsight is 20/20.That saying rings true for surgical oncologist Sanjay Bagaria, M.D. As a premedical student at University of Michigan, he chose to major in Japanese studies, mastering thousands of characters and a new grammar structure to read the Japanese literature he loved. Looking back, that experience gave him the tools to view not only language, but eventually medicine, in new ways.
His research has focused on finding ways to boost the benefit that surgery provides patients with cancer. Now he’ll apply those lessons in his “dream job” as the new associate director, Center for Individualized Medicine(CIM), at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida.
“I am excited to join CIM and serve as a conduit for our talented clinicians and scientists in Florida, helping them turn ideas into discoveries that can improve individualized care. It’s an exciting time in precision medicine. We have the opportunity to bring together data from so many different areas to understand how genetic and biological processes drive disease. Our challenge is to harness this data to identify actionable steps to guide an individual’s medical care.” – Sanjay Bagaria, M.D.
“I am excited to join CIM and serve as a conduit for our talented clinicians and scientists in Florida, helping them turn ideas into discoveries that can improve individualized care,” says Dr. Bagaria. “It’s an exciting time in precision medicine. We have the opportunity to bring together data from so many different areas to understand how genetic and biological processes drive disease. Our challenge is to harness this data to identify actionable steps to guide an individual’s medical care.”
Boosting the benefit: surgery + chemotherapy in one procedure
Since joining Mayo Clinic in 2010, Dr. Bagaria has focused his clinical practice and research on a combined chemotherapy/surgical procedure called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) surgery, which is performed for select patients with late stage colon, ovarian and appendiceal cancer.
This individualized approach to cancer treatment involves surgically removing all visible cancer that has spread to the abdomen, and then, while in the operating room, bathing the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy for up to 90 minutes to kill any microscopic cancer cells that may remain. The type of chemotherapy given depends upon the patient’s cancer type.
According to Dr. Bagaria, the key advantage of this combined treatment is that a high dose of chemotherapy can be given to the area that needs it with minimal exposure to the rest of the body. This approach can often avoid the typical side effects of chemotherapy, such as hair loss, diarrhea and mouth sores.
While this therapy has helped some patients live longer, it doesn’t work for everyone. That’s why Dr. Bagaria has focused his research on ways to help more patients benefit from the treatment.
Dr. Bagaria is exploring:
Early on – using research to improve surgical results
“Throughout my career, I didn’t have a predetermined path. Instead, I followed my interests, letting each experience inform my next step,” says Dr. Bagaria.
After graduating from college, Dr. Bagaria worked for one year as an interpreter for government officials in Toga, a remote village near the Siberian coast of Japan. His job allowed him to travel and welcome representatives from around the world.
Passing on a job as an interpreter at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, he attended Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and then completed a residency in surgery and post-doctoral training in genetic medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
“I chose surgery because it plays such a large role in curing diseases like cancer. During my surgical fellowship at the John Wayne John Wayne Cancer Institute, I took a new approach to disease – looking at it from a medical viewpoint, not just a surgical one,” says Dr. Bagaria.
During his fellowship, Dr. Bagaria began work on developing a biomarker, which looked for a specific type of breast cancer known as basal-like breast cancer.
“We knew that basal-like breast cancer is highly aggressive and can respond to certain therapies. We also knew that it is often confused with a type of breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer. The challenge was to discover a way to separate and easily identify basal-like breast cancer from triple-negative breast cancer,” he explains. Dr. Bagaria and his team identified a specific protein for basal-like breast cancer and developed a clinical test based on their findings. He and three colleagues hold a patent for these discoveries.
“In my new role, I hope to pass along lessons I’ve learned in my own research and help investigators overcome obstacles, speeding the development of new predictive tools and therapies,” adds Dr. Bagaria.
A look into the future
So what does the future of precision medicine hold?
“Someday my own children will have their genetic and biological data used routinely to guide their medical care. CIM is uniquely poised to make this vision a reality – with research resources and experts across many disciplines, CIM has the ability to help Mayo Clinic physicians and scientists move ideas forward that will improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease,” says Dr. Bagaria.
Stay informed about individualized medicine
Coverage from the 2018 Individualizing Medicine Conference:
Tags: #Associate director Center for Individualized Medicine, #basal-like breast cancer, #Dr. Sanjay Bagaria, #hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) surgery, #Mayo Clinic Campus in Florida, #surgical oncologist, biomarkers, Cancer, center for individualized medicine, mayo clinic, medical research, Precision Medicine, Research