Pancreatic cancer studied

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Georgia Tech have joined to start the first regional research program to study the genetics and cell biology of pancreatic cancer.

Scientists at both institutions are studying tissue and serum samples from patients with cancer, hoping to identify the differences in genetic and cellular features between tumor and normal cells.

The institutions say they hope the research will be used to develop tests for early diagnosis and lead to targeted therapies to treat pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

“The traditional treatment philosophy of one size fits all is quickly becoming obsolete,” said Dr. George Daneker, the medical director of oncology research at St. Joseph’s in Sandy Springs and co-principal investigator of the study. “No two individuals are alike, nor are two cancers. Each is unique based on genetic and protein makeup.”

He’s working with John McDonald, the chairman of the School of Biology at Georgia Tech.

The research is the first to focus on pancreatic cancer, which is similar to ovarian cancer in that it often goes undetected until it has progressed too far to be cured. It is the cancer afflicting actor Patrick Swayze.

Daneker and McDonald, a world authority in molecular genetics, said they hope to identify the mechanisms that make genes resistant to chemotherapy. Daneker said the research will focus on screening and early detection.

“Georgia Tech has the most advanced technology and the scientists who can help move these bench research projects closer to bedside treatments for patients at a very rapid rate,” Daneker said. “St. Joseph’s brings the clinical expertise to take the treatments directly to the patient faster.”

Piedmont tops survey of patients

Piedmont Hospital ranked No. 1 in patient satisfaction among metro Atlanta hospitals, according to the recently released Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey.

Asked to rate the overall quality of care during their hospital stay on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 the best, 77 percent of Piedmont patients responded with a nine or 10. The state and national average was 64 percent.

The survey covered the year from July 2007 through June 2008. The Buckhead hospital also was No. 1 in the previous HCAHPS survey, which covered October 2006 to June 2007.

“We are thrilled with this recent data from HCAHPS,” said Robert Maynard, the president and CEO of Piedmont. “Our promise to the community is to provide the perfect balance between health and care. We believe every person who walks into Piedmont Hospital should be treated with respect and compassion by some of the world’s best doctors and medical professionals using the latest … technology.”

HCAHPS is a standardized survey that reflects a patient’s perspective of hospital care.