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Dr. John Kunstman Shares his Perspective in Honor of Pancreatic and Carcinoid Cancers Awareness Months

November 30, 2021

As we honor Pancreatic and Carcinoid Cancers Awareness Months and Neuroendocrine Tumors Awareness Day, what do you want our patients and families to pause and remember?

There has been tremendous progress in all aspects of treatment for pancreatic cancer/neuroendocrine tumors in the past decade. Improvements in surgical, medical, and radiation oncology have all made an impact in both outcomes and quality of life for patients with pancreatic cancer/neuroendocrine tumors. I think it is important to remember that there is always hope for the future and all of us will strive to spread and share that hope.

How do you collaborate with the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers team at Smilow to care for patients?

Our collaborations are broad and durable. These include formal interactions such as our multidisciplinary tumor conference that occurs weekly as well as informal interactions such as hallway or telephone conversations. With such a large volume of motivated, highly qualified providers across all service lines for treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer/neuroendocrine tumors, being a part of the team at Smilow makes an enormous difference in my practice and for my patients.

Why is it so important to encourage younger and diverse groups to pursue a career in cancer research?

Perspective is crucial in cancer research. We have learned that it is an extremely heterogeneous disease – even within a single organ system or cancer type. By maximizing the breadth of perspectives and life experiences that are working on our team, we can gain insight that may not have been available without that diversity.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in cancer research?

Keep an open mind. When I was in medical school, I was encouraged to avoid surgical oncology as a career because I was advised that surgery would be rendered useless by the time if finished the requisite 9 years of training after medical school. Now, as a practicing surgical oncologist, we are operating on patients with cancers that would have been considered incurable just ten years ago – and seeing amazing results!

Submitted by Renee Gaudette on November 30, 2021