The Lurie Cancer Center held its inaugural Interventional Oncology Training Symposium on October 15, offering medical students and radiology residents the opportunity to learn more about the dynamic field of interventional oncology (IO).
"The goal of the symposium was to expose bright minds to this emerging field of medicine, and to inspire future leaders within the field of IO," says Robert Lewandowski, MD, Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of Interventional Oncology Training at Northwestern. More than 100 medical students and residents attended the one-day conference that included presentations, hands-on workstations, and panel-based discussions. Noted experts in the field presented on topics related to clinical care, research, and entrepreneurship.
Feinberg faculty member Riad Salem, MD, Professor of Radiology, Medicine, and Surgery, discussed IO's place within the larger context of oncology. "Traditionally, cancer specialists belonged to either medical, surgical, or radiation oncology," he explains. "Today, IO has emerged as the fourth pillar of oncology by offering cancer patients a wide variety of innovative treatment options, often with less toxicity than systemic therapies."
Reed Omary, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Radiology, shared information on how to succeed in academics and the importance of grants to fund research. Omary notes, "Today's savvy trainees who wish to differentiate themselves from others recognize that IO can provide an advantage in terms of academic advancement and securing grant funding."
The keynote presentation by Aravind Arepally, MD, Director of Interventional Radiology at Piedmont Healthcare and Chief Scientific Officer at Surefire Medical in Atlanta, Georgia, covered the business aspects of IO and exposed students to entrepreneurship.
In addition to the presentations, participants attended hands-on workstations where they could try out the equipment used in the field. There was also a panel discussion composed of medical students, residents, and interventional radiology fellows. The panel addressed questions ranging from the nuts and bolts of entering IO to finding a mentor.
Aaron Eifler, a fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who hopes to start his residency training in IO after he graduates, also spoke at the symposium. His presentation, "Interventional Oncology: A Medical Student's Perspective," highlighted what drew him to the discipline, as well as the strides he made performing IO research in 2009-2010.
Many students were interested in hearing about how Eifler successfully received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellows grant, arguably the most prestigious national research award for medical students.
"I investigated a novel treatment for pancreatic cancer that delivers therapeutic nanoparticles directly into the blood vessels that feed the tumors," Eifler says. "We hypothesized that this could achieve a high concentration of therapy at the site of the cancer and reduce the side effects that come with delivering chemotherapy drugs to the entire body."
Eifler also noted, "This symposium was a great way to get the word out about IO and expose medical students to this forward-thinking field."