UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine E-Edition 2017 - Page 9

Easter to Halloween, so you can be sure that I had my share of cut feet. I was constantly in and out of the doctor’s office for something or other. I was intrigued by it. In the eleventh grade, I even did a term paper on why I wanted to be a do ctor.” As for why he chose the relatively small subspecialty of gynecologic oncology, he says: “I decided on it in my third year of Ob-Gyn residency. I found a challenge in treating the more seriously ill patients. And I enjoy having more mature women as patients. Because the risk of gynecologic cancers increases with age, three- quarters of my patients are over the age of 50. They really are a delight – a nice group of people. The most rewarding thing about this specialty is that we cure about 75 percent of our patients, or seven out of 10 who walk through the door.” A fairly young specialty, gynecologic oncology has had a major impact on the treatment of reproductive cancers in women, according to Dr. Partridge, whose program at the UAB Cancer Center draws referrals from over the region. “Cure rates have crept up, less radical surgery is being done, and complication rates have gone down,” he explains. “It makes a difference to have a specially trained person do this type of surgery. Also contributing to improved cure rates is the availability throughout the state of board certified radiation oncologists who are trained to properly treat women with gynecologic cancers. Most of these radiation oncologists received their training at this institution.” Of the gynecologic malignancies, ovarian cancer is the most difficult to treat, according to Dr. Partridge. “That’s because cancer of the ovaries is hard to detect until it’s in an advanced stage,” he explains. “On the other hand, cervical and endometrial cancers are usually detected early when they can be more successfully treated. In the past 15 years, the drug platinol has had a major impact on the treatment of ovarian cancer by delaying disease recurrence and improving survival by about five to seven percent.” Another exciting development in treating ovarian cancer is Taxol, the well-publicized compound derived from the yew tree. “In combination with platinol,” Dr. Partridge says, “Taxol could add another jump to the progression-free interval and percentage points to the cure rate following surgery for ovarian cancer, which strikes about 22,000 women a year.” Commenting on recent advances in the treatment of the most common gynecologic malignancy, endometrial cancer, Dr. Partridge says, “Endometrial cancer is diagnosed in about 33,000 women annually. Traditionally, it has been treated with surgery and radiation. We’ve learned over the past few years, however, that with careful surgical staging and the resulting pathological information, we can define a subset of patients who can be cured with surgery alone and therefore be spared radiotherapy. That number may be as high as three out of five patients, and the cure rate is excellent – 90 to 95 percent if there is no spread.” Dr. Partridge advocated regular Pap smears to detect early changes that signal the development of cervical cancer, which he describes as the cancer no woman should die of. “We are very excited about the addition of a world-renowned cervical cancer research team to the Cancer Center faculty this fall,” he says. “The research laboratory of Drs. Tom Broker and Louise Chow, who are coming to us from the University of Rochester, will improve our clinical efforts. We’ll be able to take what they find in the laboratory and apply it to better treatment at the bedside.” He adds, “The clinical approach has always been to treat what you can see and touch with modalities like surgery, radiation, and drugs. Now, for the first time, scientists are inside the cancer cell, and their findings on the molecular biology of the disease can be combined with the work of clinicians like myself to come up with more effective therapies in the future. By looking at substances produced in the cell, we may be able to determine more precisely the kind of chemotherapy or radiotherapy needed. And targeted therapies like monoclonal antibodies will be in wider use.” While focused on advancing the progress of gynecologic cancer treatment, Dr. Partridge also finds personal satisfaction in teaching yet another generation of physicians about his chosen specialty. In fact, he characterizes the Excellence in Teaching Award conferred on him this year by UAB President Charles A. McCallum, D.M.D., M.D., as one of the best things that ever happened to him. “To be recognized for something I love to do is very special to me. Teaching is a labor of love. I was overwhelmed and thrilled by this recognition.” Ed Partridge is as poised at a podium discussing his work before a civic group or presiding over a meeting as he is teaching. He holds his audience in rapt attention whatever the subject. His dedication to service diminishes what he calls his “free time,” but he takes a philosophical approach to his commitments. “Barbara and I were talking the other day about how things change as you get older,” he says. “When I was a resident, my only responsibility was to come to work on time, do a good job, take care of patients, and then leave it behind. We used to go to Barons baseball games and Stallions football games, camp out nearly every weekend with the kids at the state parks, and have people over at the drop of a hat. But now, we just don’t seem to have time for that anymore. “As you get older, you have your social responsibilities, community responsibilities, and extra work responsibilities that go above and beyond the education process. Even after 5 p.m., you have a lot of commitments.” At 45, Dr. Partridge credits the professional and spiritual maturity he has gained over the years with helping him keep the demands on his time and talents in balance.” As I said before, you must have some degree of peace with your place in life and the contributions you are able to make. When you feel good about yourself and what you are achieving, everything falls into place.” # K N O W U A B C C C • U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 9