Dr. Monirul Islam first in Nebraska to get new federal grant

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations | May 16, 2013

Image with caption: Monirul Islam, M.D., Ph.D.

Monirul Islam, M.D., Ph.D.

A UNMC physician-scientist is the first Nebraskan to win a grant through an Affordable Care Act-created research agency.

Monirul Islam, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health, received a $1.78 million three-year grant from the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The Affordable Care Act devised the agency to spur research that helps patients and medical practitioners compare treatment regimens and make better decisions.

Dr. Islam wants to establish a protocol that outlines treatment options for patients who have stage four -- the most advanced -- lung cancer.

"We don't know if patients are well-informed of their treatment options," Dr. Islam said. "Lung cancer is a fatal disease and we want patients to be satisfied and comfortable and their preferences respected."

He will compare treatment preferences among different patient groups when available drugs offer the same survival but different side effects. He will then communicate patients' preferences to physicians to assess changes in clinical practice.

At the time of diagnosis, 40 percent of people already have progressed to stage four.

At this stage, the cancer has spread beyond the lung and is considered inoperable, but treatable.

Traditional chemotherapy and newer targeted therapies may improve survival and help with the symptoms of lung cancer. Radiation therapy may be recommended to control bone pain, bleeding from the lungs, tumors that obstruct airways and cause shortness of breath, or brain metastases that cause significant symptoms, such as headaches or weakness.

"Many drugs are available for treatment of late-stage lung cancer," he said. "These drugs have similar effectiveness but have a different frequency of side effects. Side effects are important when choosing the best treatment, but these patients receive little guidance on how to communicate drug and side effect preferences to their physicians during treatment planning."

Dr. Islam expects to begin enrolling patients July 1 from The Nebraska Medical Center Cancer Center in Omaha; Saint Francis Medical Center Cancer Treatment Center in Grand Island; Callahan Cancer Center, Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte; and Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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