Hawaiʻi Physicians Learn About Fight Against Rare Cancer

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It’s a rare type of cancer, yet uterine sarcoma does strike women in Hawaiʻi. In late August, physicians in Hawaiʻi had the opportunity to learn more about the disease from a leader in the field, thanks to the generosity of local attorney and former University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Regent Jeffrey Portnoy. 

Portnoy lost his wife, Sandi, to the disease in 2016 after a battle she waged with Dr. Michael Carney, the Kosasa Endowed Professor in Gynecologic Oncology.

Her family chose to honor Sandi by assuring that the local healthcare community was familiar with the condition, symptoms, treatments, and work ahead. The Portnoy family funded a lecture that allowed The UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Department of OB/GYN and Women’s Health to invite Shreyaskumar Patel, MD, the Robert R. Herring Distinguished Professor and Medical Director of the Sarcoma Center at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to travel to Honolulu from Houston in order to give us an update on the status of this terrible cancer.

Dr. Patel is an international leader in uterine leimyosarcoma research and treatment and has authored or co-authored more than 250 peer-reviewed articles. He has also authored or co-authored more than 35 book chapters, including the last seven editions of Harrison’s Textbook of Internal Medicine.

“I thought that this was an incredibly meaningful tribute to Sandi Portnoy from her family. Thanks to the generosity of Jeffrey Portnoy, physicians in Hawaiʻi were able to learn more about a type of uterine cancer that is extremely difficult to treat,” said Dr. Ivica Zalud, Department Chair.

“Though this type of uterine cancer is relatively rare, we see it several times a year here in Hawaiʻi. It’s a very aggressive type of cancer, but thanks to Dr. Patel’s research and lecture today on new advances, we have more information and tools to improve treatment for this devastating cancer,” said Dr. Carney.

JABSOM and the UH Cancer Center is grateful to the Portnoy family for the educational opportunity afforded by the lecture, which was held at the Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children, where the JABSOM OB-GYN department administrative offices are located, and where JABSOM and the hospital jointly train MD Residents to become our future OB-GYN specialists.