THE SURGICAL ONCOLOGY TEAM AT SIUH OFFERS GROUNDBREAKING PROCEDURES IN CANCER TREATMENT ACROSS SEVERAL SUBSPECIALTIES
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY
An affiliate of Northwell Health’s prestigious Cancer Institute, and considered one of the largest cancer programs in the New York metropolitan area, Staten Island University Hospital’s Department of Surgical Oncology offers extensive expertise and experience in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of all forms of malignancy.
“Surgical oncology has made great advances in the past two decades, and we now have the tools and technology to treat many forms of what was once deemed as inoperable, terminal cancer,” observed Dr. Basem Azab, director of surgical oncology at SIUH. “Systemic treatments and minimally invasive approaches have opened the door to treating patients who were once considered non-surgical candidates.”
Encompassing a variety of surgical subspecialties including breast, urologic, and colorectal surgery, the department also offers treatment in the realms of neurosurgery, gynecologic oncology, and resulting plastic and reconstructive procedures.
For residents of Staten Island, having these types of complex treatments so close to home is a crucial part of their care.
“There are very few centers in this area, even in the country, doing what we are doing,” said Dr. Azab, referencing SIUH’s recent adoption of Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy, or HIPEC, a type of hyperthermia therapy used in combination with surgery in the treatment of advanced abdominal cancers. “We have also recently created a pancreas program for borderline respectable pancreatic cancer patients and we are now offering vascular reconstruction to those patients to maintain optimal blood flow after pancreas surgeries. Amazing therapies that mean patients no longer have to travel hours away to receive state-of-the-art care.”
Born and raised in Egypt and the son of an accountant, Dr. Azab pursued a career in medicine because it was his father’s passion. “I wanted to fulfill a dream he couldn’t achieve,” he said. “When he was suffering at the end of his life with a liver issue and required surgery, I decided I would specialize in surgical oncology.”
A graduate of Cairo University Medical School, Dr. Azab completed his internal medicine and surgical residencies at SIUH and his two-year surgical oncology fellowship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Board-certified by the American Board of Surgery, he has been a key speaker at several national and international oncology meetings and currently holds a faculty position as Clinical Assistant Professor with the East Virginia Medical School, Department of Surgery, in Norfolk, Virginia.
Appointed as SIUH’s director of surgical oncology in April, Dr. Azab has made it his mission to combat the borough’s cancer rates. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer remains a leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for about one in every four deaths across the nation. Alarmingly, according to a 2017 report, Staten Island suffers the highest incidence of cancer of all five boroughs.
“We’ve introduced a number of sophisticated treatment options on Staten Island,” said Dr. Azab. “I mentioned HIPEC, in which warmed anti-cancer medications are infused and circulated in the peritoneal cavity for a brief period of time.
Trans catheter arterial chemoembolization is also being used, which is a minimally invasive procedure that restricts a tumor’s blood supply and injects small embolic particles coated with chemotherapeutic drugs through a catheter into an artery directly supplying that tumor.”
“The results have been astounding and patients have been traveling from as far away as Virginia to seek these treatments,” he added.
According to Dr. Azab, SIUH is also seeing significant growth in its gastrointestinal oncology program.
“The minimally invasive options for GI patients have increased tremendously over the past decade. We now have a full-time hepatologist who focuses entirely on liver disease, which has shown significant volume in this borough. We plan to further enhance SIUH’s strength in gastrointestinal oncology to better serve the patient population who need and rely on that specialty.”
For Dr. Azab, who has been working in the field for decades, there’s renewed excitement in the hospital’s decision to further expand its interventional teams and capabilities, focusing attention on diagnostic radiology and interventional vascular procedures.
“I’ve been in practice for 24 years, and I still love what I do,” concluded the doctor. “I find the collaboration refreshing, contributing to a new outlook on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer. I love being responsible for positive change, and in this continuously evolving field, I see a lot more positive change on the horizon.”
SIUH Department of Surgical Oncology
256-C Mason Avenue, 3rd Floor / Staten Island, NY 10305 / 718.226.6398