Miami, Jan 26 (EFE).- Dominican oncologist Miguel Villalona Calero, the deputy director of the first comprehensive cancer care and research center in South Florida, said that new therapies against the many forms of cancer are producing more and more “miracles.”
Although cancer remains – and will remain for some time – a “serious disease,” today there is “hope” thanks to advances in new technologies, therapies and medications, the specialist educated in the United States told EFE in an interview for the opening of the Miami Cancer Institute on Thursday.
Besides emphasizing the importance of early detection, Villalona Calero added that even when there’s little hope of curing cancer, such as when it has progressed to Stage 4 and metastized, medications can now be used to transform it “into a chronic disease that the patient can live with.”
This is so because “we’re understanding more and more about what causes tumors and what the ‘fuel’ is that incites cancer,” he said.
Directed by Michael J. Zinner and a part of the Baptist Health South Florida organization, the MCI is housed in a four-story building with 41,400 square meters (445,000 square feet) of workspace.
The MCI’s facilities and equipment are valued at $430 million and include the “most modern collection of anti-cancer radiation equipment that exists under the same roof in the US and possibly in the world,” Villalona Calero said, adding that the center was founded to serve the local community but also patients from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Villalona Calero said that for the majority of Latin Americans Miami is closer than Houston or New York, and the MCI is fully on a par with the oncological centers in those cities.
It uses all sorts of radiation procedures to treat cancer, including a proton therapy unit, unavailable in any Latin American or Caribbean nation because of its high cost and the fact that it is used exclusively to treat children because it’s much safer than electron units.
Also, and very importantly, 50 percent of the MCI’s oncologists and radiation therapists speak Spanish and the center provides explanatory materials for patients in that language, he said, along with interpretation services to ease face-to-face communications.
Villalona Calero said that the mixed and varied origins among Hispanics seem to make them less prone to the most common cancers – breast, prostate and others – but raise their susceptibility to cancers linked with viruses, such as cervical cancer.
In addition, he said, the center has a working alliance with New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – and only two centers in the US have such an alliance – which permits access to research and to treatments that are being used in New York.
Villalona Calero, who before coming to Miami worked for 16 years at Ohio State University as its director of oncological medicine and an associate research director, also enthusiastically discussed the clinical studies being carried out on new drugs, including some that have not yet been approved.
When someone is suffering from a fatal illness they have two options – go home or fight with the help of what’s available. “While you’re alive, there’s hope,” Villalona Calero said.
“Cancer is a disease of the genes, you can’t change them, but you can stop the molecular changes that cause it,” he said.