SCCA Network News

SCCA Network News, Issue 12 Fall 2011

In this issue:

SCCA Leads Head & Neck Cancer Care in the Northwest

Minimally invasive robotic surgery

Leading the way for Northwest head and neck cancer care, UW Medical Center (UWMC), a parent organization of SCCA, was the first medical center to bring robotic surgery to the region and continues to train community physicians in this field.

Patients whose tumors can be removed using the daVinci Robot can expect to return home in only a day or two without experiencing the long-term effects of more invasive techniques. The newest technique for removing tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract (tumors of the back of the tongue and throat) is transoral robotic-assisted surgery (TORS). Great advances have been made in reconstructive procedures as well.

Using a simultaneous approach, an oncologic surgeon and a reconstructive surgeon work together, significantly shortening total procedure time. After surgery, a team of nurses, speech pathologists, and social workers help patients recover and rehabilitate.
In structures that cannot be saved or restored, new ways of helping improve speech, swallowing, and other functions include restoring vocal ability with a quick implant procedure, the electrolarnyx, a device placed against the neck to help form words, and the tracheosophageal puncture, a surgical procedure that restores the patient’s ability to deliver air into the throat to eventually allow speech.

Head and neck radiotherapy to include proton therapy


SCCA patients are cared for by specialized radiation oncologists with specific clinical experience in treating head and neck cancers using state-of-the-art technology.
SCCA and ProCure Treatment Centers Inc. broke ground in 2011 for a new proton therapy center that will provide a first-of-its-kind treatment option for cancer patients throughout the Northwest. Scheduled to open in 2013, this facility will be among only a handful of centers in the nation to offer proton therapy, an advanced form of radiation treatment and an important alternative to standard X-ray radiation for many types of cancer and some non-cancerous tumors.

To refer your patient to SCCA/UWMC for a head and neck cancer, contact us at (206) 288-SCCA or (206) 598-4023.

“Just in Time” — a New Approach to Pharm-Sponsored Research Protocols for Network Members

Several months ago, an SCCA Network member institution research coordinator suggested an option for participating in clinical research that immediately appealed to us. A site could be selected and the regulatory documents needed for a study would be submitted. They would then be on hold until a potential patient was identified. Only then would study drugs and lab kits be shipped to the site(s) and the site initiation visit would take place. These steps would be expedited so that a patient could be enrolled and begin protocol therapy within a short period of time (approximately two weeks).

This approach addresses the accrual needs of trials targeting small numbers of patients or smaller cancer centers wanting to participate in clinical research without committing time and effort to the full study start-up process until a patient is identified. We have been promoting this “just in time” approach with our pharmaceutical partners with some success and plan to continue to ask sponsors to allow our sites to participate in this manner whenever possible.

Pharmaceutical companies have training requirements that must be met. Often the training includes a large section on Good Clinical Practice (GCP). One potential way to limit the amount of GCP training is for all Network investigators to complete an online GCP course. The Network office can then lobby each pharmaceutical company to accept this GCP training in place of the sponsor’s GCP training. It appears that we will soon be able to offer two options for completing a certified GCP course. The next time you are asked to complete GCP training for a clinical trial, we hope you will agree to use one of these two courses.

As we offer new studies for your consideration, we will let you know whether participating in a “just in time” manner is an option. Our goal is to help provide access to a full menu of trials for your cancer patients including NCI cooperative group, investigator-initiated, and scientifically interesting pharmaceutical trials. This will take teamwork between SCCA Network members and the Network Research Office. Our commitment to you is to find ways to centralize as much of the work as possible to allow you to focus on identifying and enrolling patients to appropriate trials.

SCCA Physician Profile: Eduardo Mendez, MD

Surgical Oncologist

Dr. Mendez is an expert in the surgical treatment of head and neck cancers, including minimally invasive robotic surgery of transoral cancers. He is an assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at University of Washington School of Medicine and an assistant member in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“I am interested in the treatment of head and neck cancer, reconstruction of head and neck cancer defects, and minimally invasive approaches to tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract and thyroids including robotic-assisted surgery and transoral laser microsurgery,” Mendez says.

Educated at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Mendez completed his internship, residency training, and fellowship training in advanced head and neck surgical oncology and microvascular reconstruction at the University of Washington.
He was the first to perform robotic surgery for head and neck cancer in the state of Washington and is a national speaker on robotic surgery and the genetics of head and neck cancer.

Olympic Medical Cancer Center

Cancer treatment on the Olympic Peninsula has taken a giant leap forward. Olympic Medical Cancer Center (OMCC) now offers Varian TrueBeam™ radiotherapy technology.

“TrueBeam is the only machine on the market capable of combining RapidArc® therapy with respiratory gating, enabling it to deliver a treatment dose faster than any other accelerator with better accuracy and precision,” says Michael Shevach, MD, radiation oncologist at OMCC.

In addition to TrueBeam technology, OMCC provides a full spectrum of services, including:

  • A multidisciplinary cancer care team 
  • Medical and radiation oncology under one roof
  • Access to clinical trials through SCCA
  • A patient navigator to assist patients undergoing cancer treatment

“Olympic Medical Cancer Center has always had a superior team of caregivers delivering world-class cancer care,” says Rena Zimmerman, MD, medical director of radiation oncology at OMCC. “With the addition of TrueBeam, we combine the best of both worlds – quality, patient-centered care with the most advanced radiotherapy technology available. We are exceedingly fortunate to provide this level of care to our community.”

Physician Profile: Michael Shevach, MD

Radiation Oncologist, Olympic Medical Cancer Center

Dr. Michael Shevach is a radiation oncologist at Olympic Medical Cancer Center. He received his medical degree at the University of Miami School of Medicine and completed his internal medicine internship at Long Island Jewish Medical Center before moving on to University of Maryland Medical System for his radiation oncology residency and fellowship training.

“I am excited by the continuously evolving radiation technologies and available treatments for cancer,” Shevach says. “I have a particular interest in the treatment of prostate cancer and hope to further develop the program at Olympic Medical Cancer Center.

“The challenge, and enjoyment, of my medical practice comes from using available technology to shape a treatment plan tailored for the patient who can receive potential benefit from treatment. Educating my patients is another exciting aspect of my profession.”

When he isn’t caring for patients, Shevach enjoys playing golf, Texas hold ‘em, and watching the Tampa Bay Rays.

U-Link: EMR Access for Referring Providers

Did you know that referring providers in our community can access their patient records in Mindscape? By enrolling in the U-Link program, external providers can immediately view transcripts, labs, medication lists, radiology PACs, and other patient data. This is ideal for participating providers to stay apprised of their patients being cared for at SCCA, UW Medical Center, and Harborview Medical Center. With recent upgrades, U-Link accounts are now also available to provider support staff (e.g. RNs, MAs, etc.), so entire teams can access patients’ records.

For more information or to enroll in U-Link, go to You may contact the Physician Liaison Program at or at (206) 598-5693. The enrollment process takes about a week. For immediate patient record ROI needs, providers should contact SCCA’s Health Information Management office at (206) 288-1114.