Local Doctor's Clinical Trial Draws Attention In Italy

October 29, 2008
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What did Grand Rapids radiation oncologist Dr. Gilbert Padula do over his summer vacation? He became a bit of a medical rock star in Italy.

Padula’s August presentation about a clinical trial for breast cancer treatment at Saint Mary’s Health Care made Italian television and newspapers.

The MammoSite Radiation Therapy System is produced by Hologic Inc., a Massachusetts public company that makes and markets medical devices geared toward women’s health. MammoSite allows the placement of radiation “seeds” in the cavity left following a lumpectomy, and reduces radiation time from five or six weeks to seven days.

“It’s a more rapid form of treating breast cancer rather than treating the whole breast over six weeks,” Padula said.

“The advantage for patients is they don’t have to come in every day for six weeks; they only have to block off one week of their life. Only part of the breast is treated, so there’s less toxicity, more convenience, and the cost is comparable.”

He said the treatment is appropriate for certain patients, in particular older women with small tumors that haven’t spread, so patients need to discuss it with their doctors. The clinical trial, which started in 2005, is slated to continue for several more years, he said. It will measure the results of MammoSite compared to standard treatment.

Padula, 39, grew up in an Italian family in Rochester Hills. He maintains his ties to the motherland with annual trips.

“I knew some people at the Catholic University. They asked me to give lecture. … It’s a new technique that has not been employed in Italy,” Padula said.

The lecture was delivered to the departments of surgery, radiation oncology and medical oncology of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, but broadcast in lecture halls around the country. Italian National TV, channel TG3 and two newspapers covered the lecture.

Padula plans to present another lecture at the Oct. 23 Michigan State Medical Society annual meeting in Troy, and he’s been invited back to present again in Italy.

Fluent in Italian, Padula said his hosts were disappointed he chose English for his lecture.

“I went through some cases to residents in Italian, but I think at the medical level, it becomes very technical,” said Padula, a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Michigan State University medical school who spent a semester in Italy as a college student.

— Elizabeth Slowik

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