Noted Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Expert Joins Hoag Family Cancer Institute

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Gary Ulaner, MD, PhD

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian is building upon its personalized, science-based approach to cancer care with the launch of its Molecular Imaging and Therapy Program, led by nationally recognized expert Gary A. Ulaner, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Ulaner, who is dual board-certified in radiology and nuclear medicine, recently joined Hoag Family Cancer Institute from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where he served as the PET/CT expert on the Breast Cancer and Myeloma Disease Management Teams.

He is bringing with him multiple innovative clinical trials, some of which are federally-funded by the National Institutes of Health, that use molecular imaging to detect cancer at a cellular level, well before traditional imaging.

Using molecular imaging to target cancer cells, Dr. Ulaner will also be conducting trials to evaluate the efficacy of targeted radiation therapy (“liquid radiation”) to then treat cancer.

“There have been tremendous recent advancements in cancer therapies which ‘target’ a specific molecule on the cancer cell,” Dr. Ulaner said. “I am so happy to help bring these advanced trials to Orange County, and specifically, the Hoag community. Hoag’s Molecular Imaging and Therapy Program is helping to pioneer the most sensitive imaging methods to date to advance research and more superiorly treat Hoag cancer patients.”

Molecular imaging uses radiotracers, a kind of tumor-specific dye that “lights up” in a positron emission tomography-computerized tomography (PET/CT) scan. This allows physicians to find a cancer cell’s exact location and determine the best course of treatment for that specific cancer. Molecular imaging is also used to monitor a cancer treatment’s effectiveness.

“One of the advantages of molecular imaging is that it can direct oncologists to the precise location of a cancer, rather than guessing where it might be,” Dr. Ulaner said. “These technologies also show promise in helping us to evaluate a patient’s immune cells to determine who will respond best to immunotherapy.”

Hoag Family Cancer Institute is a leader in cancer therapy in Orange County, bringing innovative treatments and programs to patients–including Hoag’s Precision Medicine Program, Cell Therapy Program for solid tumors, and some of the most advanced surgical techniques and radiation therapy available in the United States.

Thanks to philanthropic support, Hoag is currently studying the use of molecular imaging in breast cancer using a new molecular imaging agent for the detection of estrogen receptor-positive lesions in patients with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer. Hoag is the first in the nation to use this FES imaging agent in a clinical trial for staging of breast cancer, and the first in Southern California to offer the agent to sensitively detect breast cancer.

On the horizon for Hoag is a Phase 2, NIH-funded trial that uses molecular imaging to sensitively detect myeloma tumors. Hoag will be the first in the world to offer this trial, which uses molecular imaging to help direct myeloma therapy.

Hoag is a nonprofit, regional health care delivery network in Orange County, California, that treats more than 30,000 inpatients and 480,000 outpatients annually. Hoag consists of two acute-care hospitals – Hoag Hospital Newport Beach, which opened in 1952, and Hoag Hospital Irvine, which opened in 2010 – in addition to nine health centers and 13 urgent care centers.

As the largest cancer program in Southern California outside of Los Angeles County, Hoag Family Cancer Institute treats more than 4,000 new patients and 18,000 total patients annually.

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