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Inroads E-Newsletter

November 2020


New Thoracic Oncologist Spearheads Development of Lung Cancer Program

Mark Sides MD PhD

Mark Sides, MD, PhD, joined Tulane's faculty in July and is building a comprehensive Thoracic Oncology Program here that offers the full spectrum of multidisciplinary care for lung cancer patients, from early detection to innovative research to genetic testing and targeted therapies.
A Highly-Skilled, Excellently Trained Clinical Team
"Caring for cancer patients is a team sport," said Dr. Sides. "This is especially true with lung cancer. And here at Tulane, we've assembled an extremely strong and focused thoracic oncology team. From radiology to interventional pulmonology to radiation oncology, we have highly skilled and excellently trained people in place, all within the Tulane network."
As a medical oncologist who exclusively treats lung cancer patients, Dr. Sides is a unique and pivotal member of this team. Prior to his arrival -- a homecoming, as Dr. Sides completed his PhD, postdoctoral training and received his MD here at Tulane -- our lung cancer patients were treated by one of our general medical oncologists.
"They offered excellent care; they just weren't exclusively focused on lung cancer," said Sides. "The benefit of our new program is that I am dedicated ONLY to thoracic oncology patients. And because I'm an academic physician, I have a limited patient panel.  I see fewer patients and so I spend more time with them and they have better access to me than a clinical practice physician in the community who might see four or five times as many patients a week. Hopefully that translates into more personalized, focused and higher-quality care."
The Benefits of Academic Lung Cancer Care
As an academic cancer center, Tulane offers other benefits as well, according to Dr. Sides. "Typically, academic centers are considered 'first choice, last resort' options for patients. First choice because you get the benefit of cutting-edge care from professionals on the front lines in terms of research and treatment. Patients come here because we ARE Tulane. We have ongoing research and access to knowledge and treatment options other community practices may not be aware of yet. Last resort because let's say a patient who has been treated by a community oncologist has progression of their disease. Now they need to come to Tulane because we offer access to clinical trials or the latest in targeted or immunotherapies -- options often not offered elsewhere."
Tulane's Low-Dose CT Lung Screening Saves Lives
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and is by far the leading cause of cancer death, accounting for almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
On a positive note, lung cancer incidence and mortality continue to decrease, partly because more people have given up smoking, but also because of advances in early detection and treatment.
Low-dose CT lung cancer screenings -- now offered at Tulane Lakeside -- can help detect lung cancers at their earliest stages, when they are most treatable.
"The earlier you find the cancer, the better the prognosis," said Dr. Sides. "This screening can save your life. Five-year survival rates go down dramatically with each stage of the disease. If we can catch stage 1 -- when lung cancer is typically asymptomatic -- then it's a surgical issue. The surgeon goes in, removes the tumor and the patient is cured."
Patients at high risk for lung cancer who may benefit from CT screening:

  •     Are between the ages of 55 and 74
  •     Are current smokers or quit within the last 15 years
  •     Have a 30-pack-year history of smoking

Radiation exposure from low-dose CT is slightly more than an x-ray but less than 10% of the radiation from a standard CT scan. "Anything actionable will be picked up with much less radiation," said Dr. Sides. "If a detected lesion is below a certain size, we simply watch it, do serial screenings, and if it doesn't change, it doesn't change. It's very unlikely it's cancer."
But if it is, it's the location more than the size of the mass that matters, according to Dr. Sides. "You can have a lot of cancer in an area that doesn't cause a problem or a little bit of cancer in an area that causes a big problem and it will get picked up easily with low-dose CT, before it has a chance to move out of the lung."
Research Into Adverse Outcomes From Immunotherapy
As a physician scientist, Dr. Sides is also very involved in lung cancer research. One of his major interests is to better understand adverse outcomes from lung cancer immunotherapies. He is currently working with Tulane's Hayward Genetics Center to identify patients who may be more genetically susceptible to these complications.
"Chemotherapy targets and attacks all rapidly dividing cells, including immune system cells," said Dr. Sides. "Therefore, chemo actually reduces our immune response. Immunotherapies, on the other hand, sensitize our bodies to cancer and ramp up our immune response, allowing it to identify and attack tumor cells. These are great treatments and the vast majority of patients receiving immunotherapies have terrific benefit for several years."
The problem is that when you ramp up the immune system, it can overwork and cause adverse reactions in some patients, and these can be severe. The complication that most concerns Dr. Sides is autoimmune pneumonitis. "Less than 5% of immunotherapy patients will experience this complication, but the mortality rate can be as high as 50%," he said.
It starts out as a little shortness of breath and a cough that develops between 12 and 15 weeks after immunotherapy treatment begins, when patients are on cruise control and don't think the symptoms are related to their therapy. "We're often unaware it's even happening until the patient ends up in the ER unable to breathe," said Dr. Sides.
Because of this, he wants to find biomarkers that will help to identify which patients are more at risk for autoimmune pneumonitis so that physicians can monitor them much more closely. "If we catch it early, steroids can be given to turn down the immune system for a short time until everything resolves and then the patient can resume therapy again."
Targeted Therapies Most Exciting Developments on the Horizon in Lung Cancer Treatment
"If you equate the treatment of cancer as a war on that cancer, then the first and most important step is to know your enemy," said Dr. Sides. "That's where targeted therapies come in."
Over the last five months, there have been three drugs approved as targeted therapies for lung cancer - treatments aimed at the specific genetic mutations in an individual's tumor - and these are the most exciting developments on the lung cancer treatment horizon, according to Dr. Sides.
Tulane's Thoracic Oncology Program can offer these personalized treatment options. "Of course, genetic testing is essential," said Dr. Sides. "I can't give the proper therapy to my patients without it. I've got to use the right tools." Sides equates it as using a power drill rather than a butter knife or a screwdriver to turn a screw.
Once the genetic mutation is identified and the targeted therapy begins, the average patient can remain on maintenance treatment for two to two and a half years before disease progression. "Then we can switch to something else," said Dr. Sides.

"The question I've had more and more from fellow clinicians is 'what do we do after the two years.' I asked one 'where is the burden of disease' and he told me 'we can't find it.' This was a stage IV metastatic lung cancer termed incurable and now we have NED - no evidence of disease. This is the type of reaction we're getting with these new targeted therapies, and as we continue to identify mutations that cause lung cancer, we can come up with additional targeted therapies to address them."

Make An Appointment
Dr. Sides sees patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Tulane Comprehensive Cancer Clinic, 150 S. Liberty St., New Orleans. To make an appointment, please call 504-988-6300.
If you are interested in a low-dose CT screening, please call Tulane Lakeside Radiology scheduling at 504-988-1200 or have your doctor call with a referral.  



Researchers Identify Marker That May Predict Whether Lung Cancer Likely to Spread

Tony Hu

Tony Hu is the Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Biotechnology Innovation at Tulane University School of Medicine. (Story by Carolyn Scofield; photo by Sally Asher)


Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. More than half of NSCLC patients die after developing metastases. There are no tests currently that would allow doctors to identify patients where more aggressive therapy could reduce mortality. Researchers at Tulane University have identified a protein on tumor-derived extracellular vesicles that indicates if a NSCLC tumor is likely to metastasize, according to a study in Science Advances.

The protein could be used as a biomarker to develop a rapid, minimally invasive test to catch these cancers early when they are more treatable, said study author Tony Hu, PhD, Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Biotechnology Innovation at Tulane University School of Medicine.

“The goal of any cancer diagnosis and treatment is to catch it early,” said Hu. “This information could help diagnose patients who are at high risk for having their cancer metastasize, and treatment could be tailored to account for that. Not all patients have the same type of tumor, and if you can target therapy to address a particular tumor, you can improve outcomes.”

Most patients with NCSLC aren’t diagnosed until their primary tumor has metastasized to other parts of the body. However, even patients diagnosed with non-metastatic NSCLC tumors of the same stage can often have very different treatment outcomes. A marker that could identify which patients are likely to develop metastatic NSCLC would aid in selecting those patients who should receive different treatment approaches to reduce their risk of metastasis and improve odds for long-term survival. However, no biomarkers identified to date have adequate sensitivity, specificity or reproducibility for this purpose, and most require tumor samples that require invasive procedures that are not suitable for repeated analyses.

All cells shed extracellular vesicles, small membrane particles that carry proteins, RNA and other molecules. These vesicles can bind to and transfer their contents to specific cell types to change the behavior of these cells. Extracellular vesicles shed by cancer cells can alter the environment of both adjacent and distant cells to establish metastatic niches that promote the invasion and growth of circulating tumor cells. Study researchers evaluated proteins carried by extracellular vesicles shed by NSCLC cells to determine which might serve as markers for metastatic NSCLC cells. Hu and his team identified a protein that was highly expressed on extracellular vesicles of metastatic but not nonmetastatic NSCLC cells. This could predict which NSCLC patients were at increased risk for metastasis when its expression was analyzed on extracellular vesicles isolated from their blood.

The next goal of Hu’s team is to incorporate the biomarker profiling with their well-developed nanoplasmonic detection assay for a rapid clinical translation.


Tulane / ACCC Host Urothelial Carcinoma Workshop for Healthcare Professionals

Tulane University School of Medicine and the Association for Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is hosting Optimizing Outcomes for Patients with Urothelial Carcinoma,  a virtual workshop for healthcare providers, on Saturday, November 14, 8 AM - Noon CST.

The workshop will feature presentations by Tulane physicians Erik Castle, MD, professor of urology, and Pedro Barata, MD, MSc, assistant professor of medicine.

Medical oncologists, urologic oncologists, urologists, advanced practice providers (nurse practitioners, physician assistants, oncology pharmacists), oncology nurses, and other healthcare professionals involved in treating patients with urothelial carcinoma are encouraged to attend.

CME, CNE, and MOS credits are available.

At the end of this educational initiative, participants should be able to:

  •     Review available evidence for the use of checkpoint inhibitors and novel agents, including antibody drug conjugates and fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitors
  •     Explore strategies for identification and management of immune-related and FGFR inhibitor-associated adverse events
  •     Discuss approaches to communicate safety and efficacy data in a meaningful way to facilitate shared clinical decision making
  •     Outline effective solutions for improving coordination and communication within the multidisciplinary cancer care team to improve patient outcomes

Registration is FREE! To RSVP, please contact Greg Clouatre at 504-988-5839 or

For more information on the workshop, please visit:

Urothelial Carcinoma Workshop Flier

Many Thanks to Our
2020 NOLA Bluedoo Donors -

Supporting Our Prostate Cancer Research Program


John & Julie Benton
Philip F. Lapeyre


Mr. & Mrs. Michael B. White

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Mr. & Mrs. J. Terrell Brown
Elisha & Susan Gould


Nick & Diane Chronis
Mimi & Billy Groome
Mr. & Mrs. J. Scott Key

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Dr. Z & Me
Guy Johnson
Walter F. Johnson, Jr.
Nancy Licalzi
Robert R. Monaco
Jerry & Rhenda Saporito
Robert L. Sebastian
Barney & Peggy Wall
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Be In That Number!

We are deeply thankful to our previous NOLA Bluedoo sponsors, as well as the donors listed above, who have chosen to continue their support of Tulane's Prostate Cancer Research Fund this year, despite the event's cancellation.

Research funds are still urgently needed to assist in the search for new treatment options. We ask that you join these generous donors by making a tax-deductible donation today! Every penny donated is immediately available to Dr. Oliver Sartor and his team as they work to continue their progress against this disease.

To make your gift via credit card, please visit and click the link in the red box at the top of the page.

Prefer to donate via check? Please make check payable to “Tulane Cancer Center,” reference “NOLA Bluedoo” in the memo line and send to Tulane Cancer Center, ATTN: K. Green, 1430 Tulane Ave., #8668, New Orleans, LA 70112.

Thank you for your support!

Previous Issues...

October 2020
VIRTUAL Krewe de Pink Prom Benefits Breast Cancer Research Program
Kidney Cancer Association Hosts First Annual Virtual Patient Symposium
Tulane / ACCC Host Urothelial Carcinoma Workshop for Healthcare Professionals
Liver Cancer Treatment Showing Positive Results, Tulane Study Says
Community Webinar on Prostate Cancer Posted to YouTube
Many Thanks to Our 2020 NOLA Bluedoo Donors

September 2020
Join Our Community Webinar on Prostate Cancer
Patient Stories - Cyril Harvey, Jr.
NOLA Bluedoo is Canceled, BUT Prostate Cancer Research Support is Still Needed!

August 2020
Clinical Trial to Test Effectiveness of Drug in Treating Cancer Patients with Severe COVID-19
Join Us for our Virtual Community Seminar on Prostate Cancer
Gynecologic Oncology: Diverse Team of "Women Caring for Women"

June 2020
$792K ACS Grant to Help Metastatic Cancer Patients Understand/Access Palliative Care
Tulane Scientists Find a Switch to Flip and Turn off Breast Cancer Growth and Metastasis
$100K Kay Yow Cancer Fund Grant to Raise Clinical Trial Awareness In Minority Patients
Fruit Flies Help Shed Light on Tumor Formation, Migration and Growth

May 2020
Tulane Seeks Recovered COVID-19 Patients to Volunteer as Plasma Donors for Clinical Trial
A Ray of Hope in the Crisis, Dr. Kendra Harris Shines Light on Needs of Healthcare Providers
ACS Grant to Help Cancer Patients Overcome Transportation Barriers Especially Critical Now
Study Targeting Tumor Genetic Mutations Yields ‘Practice Changing’ Results for Prostate Cancer Treatment
Gunning for a Cure 2020 Raises $220K for Prostate Cancer Research

February 2020
Spike in U.S. Colorectal Cancer Rates From Age 49 to 50 Suggests Many Cases Likely Undiagnosed Before Screenings
Gunning for a Cure: Making a "Tremendous Difference" to Prostate Cancer Research
Radiation Oncologist Audrey Dang Returns to NOLA / Joins Tulane's Team
Death by Chocolate: A Sweet (and Savory!) Success
Pink Games Initiative Sets New Record in Effort to Assist Local Cancer Patients

January 2020
Radiation Oncology to Unveil New Linear Accelerator / Patient Care Area
Krewe de Pink Presents Death by Chocolate
Tulane Health First in Region to Offer Focal Therapy for Prostate Cancer

December 2019
Our Year in Review

November 2019
Kidney Cancer Day: Connecting Patients to Care Teams
Tulane Researcher is Editor of Journal Issue Honoring 40th Anniversary of Key Cancer Discovery
Pickup Truck for the Cure Raffle Extended - Winner to be Pulled June 1, 2020

October 2019
Tulane Study Reveals Dim Light at Night May Promote Breast Cancer Metastasis to Bone
Cancer Cells Turn to Cannibalism to Survive Chemotherapy
Tulane School of Medicine Welcomes Neuro-Oncologist Christopher Trevino, MD
Sixth Annual NOLA Bluedoo Raises $143K for Prostate Cancer Research
Cancer Crusaders Support Research/Celebrate Life at Annual Luncheon
Blue Ribbon Soiree Closing in on $1 Million Raised for Prostate Cancer Initiatives
Krewe de Pink Continues Their Support of Breast Cancer Research with $35K Gift

August 2019
Tulane Lakeside Hospital Now Offering 3D Breast Biopsy
16 Tulane Cancer Center Faculty Named "Top Docs" by New Orleans Magazine

July 2019
Flemington Team Awarded $2.3 Million For Virus-Related Malignancies Research
Our Summer Drive is ON!
Bryan Subaru / LLS Distribute Blankets, Art Kits & Messages of Hope to Cancer Patients

May 2019
Win a Truck & Help Cure Prostate Cancer
Researcher's Publication Honored as "Top 100" by Scientific Reports
New Multidisciplinary Prostate Cancer Clinic Enhances Care / Convenience
In the Pink: 4th Annual Pink Bra Run Raises Spirits/Funds for Breast Cancer Research
Cancer Crusaders Raise $171K for Tulane/LSU Cancer Research Programs

April 2019
Researcher Awarded $1.8 Million NCI Grant to Study New Targets for Rare Pediatric Cancer
Meet Us at the Levee: Pink Bra Run to Benefit Breast Cancer Research!
2019 One Man Shoot Continues the Mission - Making a Difference in Fighting Prostate Cancer

March 2019
Exploring "Dark Matter of Genomes" Could Shed Light on Cancer Risk
Joe W. & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Grant Supports Training of Aspiring Female Scientists
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Q & A - "Screening Saves Lives"

February 2019
Improving Access to Care Top Priority for New Genitourinary Cancers Expert
Study Finds Genetic Risks Associated With Prostate Cancer are Underestimated
Greenberg Family Endowment Boosts Fight Against Prostate Cancer
8th Annual One Man Shoot: Proving "One Man Can Make a Difference"
Gunning for a Cure Sets New Record, Raising $220K for Prostate Cancer Research
Tulane Medical Students Raise Money for Pediatric Cancer Research

January 2019
New Gynecologic Oncologist Aims to Reduce Cervical Cancer Rates in NOLA
Tulane Study Finds Potential Role for Personality Psychology in Cancer Care
Sixth Annual Gunning for a Cure Benefits Prostate Cancer Research
Student Athletes Provide Much-Needed Financial Assistance to Cancer Patients

December 2018
Improving Early Prostate Cancer Detection: Latest Technology Combines Imaging/Biopsy Tools to Improve Accuracy of Diagnosis
Advanced Cancer Patients Can Live Longer with Palliative Care, Tulane Study Says
Serve and Assist: Student Athletes Raise Funds for Patient Relief

November 2018
Prostate Cancer Patients Target of New $1.6M Tulane Study
Tulane Opens Novocure Trial for Patients with Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
The Great American Smokeout ® - Quitting Starts Here!
8th Annual Blue Ribbon Soiree Sets Record, Raising $130K for Prostate Cancer Research
Krewe de Pink Celebrates New Orleans-Style, Donating $35K to Breast Cancer Research!

October 2018
Researcher Examines Role of DNA-Damaging Elements in Aging/Age-Related Diseases
Lynch Syndrome Can Lead to Cancer — Why Physicians Don't Test For It
Fifth NOLA Bluedoo a Record-Setting Success - Raises $193K for Prostate Cancer Research

August 2018
Tulane Cancer Center to Host Free Prostate Cancer Seminar
Fifth Annual NOLA Bluedoo Celebrates Prostate Cancer Survivorship New Orleans-Style
Tulane Doctor Elected to Elite Surgery College

July 2018
Tulane Welcomes Kendra Harris, MD, MSc - New Interim Chair of Radiation Oncology
Nakhle Saba Receives Ladies Leukemia League Grant to Study New Target for ALL
Bryan Subaru & LLS Bring Comfort to Patients Through Subaru Loves to Care Initiative

June 2018
Repurposed Drug Approach May Halt Spread of Cancer Cells
Tulane Head and Neck Experts Lead Call for HPV Vaccines
American Cancer Society Updates Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

May 2018
Tulane Cancer Center Now Offering Imaging Tool to Detect Recurring Prostate Cancer
Grant Supports Smoking Cessation Education for Outpatient Mental Health Facilities
It's All About the Pink - Third Annual Pink Bra Run Supports Breast Cancer Research
Cancer Crusaders Donate $169,000 to Tulane/LSU Cancer Research Programs

April 2018
Grant Supports Smoking Cessation Program for Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients
Med Student Takes Top Honors at Recent Meeting
State Rep. Julie Stokes to Lead 3rd Annual Pink Bra 5K Fun Run
7th Annual One Man Shoot Raises $130,000 for Prostate Cancer Research
Grant Supports Smoking Cessation Program For Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients

March 2018
Researcher Explores Unique Genetic Mutation Associated with Liver Cancer
Healing Hands Across the Divide: Evolving to Address Cancer Disparities
Gunning for a Cure Raises $192K for Prostate Cancer Research

February 2018
Tulane Oncologist Outlines Prostate Cancer Treatment Advances in New England Journal of Medicine
Pink Games raise money — and hope — for patients fighting cancer

May 25, 2017
Prostate Cancer Immunotherapy Works Better for African-American Men
Cancer Crusaders Present Check for $210K
Free Skin Cancer Screenings Offered at Downtown Dermatology Clinic
National Cancer Survivor's Day
Celebration Planned
Second Annual Pink Bra Run -
Great Fun for a Great Cause

April 25, 2017
"Scarless Thyroid Surgery" on Agenda at Thyroid/Parathyroid & Skin Malignancies Symposia
Free Skin Cancer Screenings Offered at Covington Clinic
Second Annual Pink Bra Run Scheduled for Mother's Day Weekend

April 11, 2017
Tulane Researcher Shows Education Can Ease Fear in Cancer Patients
Thanks A Million!

March 10, 2017
Komen Grant Supports Study of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ
One Man Can Make a Difference: 6th Annual One Man Shoot Takes Aim at Prostate Cancer
2017 Gunning for a Cure Fundraiser Exceeds $500,000 Goal!

February 16, 2017
Leading Study Backs Hormone Therapy With Radiation for Recurrent Prostate Cancer
Victory Bell: Donation Helps Cancer Patients Celebrate Survivorship

February 3, 2017
Genetic Counselors Help Patients Better Understand Inherited Cancer Risk
Perez Family Targets Prostate Cancer Through Sporting Clays Event

January 26, 2017
Tulane Researchers Find Tumor-Suppressing Protein Actually Promotes Cancer
Tickled Pink: Local Student Athletes Assist Breast Cancer Patients