Archive for August, 2018

Dr. Zhen Named an American Society for Radiation Oncology Fellow

Weining “Ken” Zhen, MD

Weining “Ken” Zhen, MD, radiation oncologist at Nebraska Medicine and professor of radiation oncology at UNMC, has been named an American Society for Radiation Oncology Fellow.

The society is the world’s largest society for radiation oncology professionals. The ASTRO Fellows designation, or FASTRO, honors individuals who have significantly added to the field of radiation oncology in the areas of research, education, patient care or service and leadership.

Dr. Zhen will receive his FASTRO designation at an awards ceremony Oct. 23, during ASTRO’S 60th Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

“The honor really goes to all faculty of our department of radiation oncology and the excellent cancer program at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine,” says Dr. Zhen.

Charles Enke, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology, was complimentary of Dr. Zhen’s latest achievement.

“Dr. Zhen is an internationally recognized expert in head and neck oncology, although his clinical skills go well beyond a single disease site,” says Dr. Enke. “Ken has contributed significantly to the education of residents and practicing radiation oncologists, and he has worked with ASTRO and SANTRO (the Sino-American Network for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology) to optimize the delivery of radiation therapy for patients in China. We are fortunate to have Ken at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine.”

Awarded annually since 2006, the ASTRO Fellows program recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to radiation oncology through research, education, patient care and/or service to the field. Since its inception, the FASTRO designation has been awarded to just 327 of ASTRO’s more than 10,000 members worldwide; the 2018 class of Fellows comprises 35 individuals.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Nebraska Medicine, call +1-402-559-3090 or OIHS@nebraskamed.com.

First Leukemia Patient Receives CAR T-cell Therapy at Nebraska Medicine


John Stenike has been fighting cancer since the age of 12. Now he and his family have new hope with this new therapy that uses a patient’s modified white blood cells to fight the cancer. John is a patient of hematologist/oncologist Krishna Gundabolu, MBBS. 

At the age of 12, John Steinke started his first full-time job.

“Fighting cancer,” the now 22-year-old says.

On March 1, 2008, Steinke was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and went through more than three years of treatment, which included chemotherapy. Six years later, he relapsed in April 2017, followed by another relapse in January 2018.

“We tried more chemotherapy and some alternative therapies, but he kept relapsing,” says Steinke’s dad, John. “We knew about CAR T-cell therapy, but at the time, it wasn’t commercially available yet.”

In February, Nebraska Medicine publicly announced chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy was available for commercial use for patients with recurring non-Hodgkin lymphoma and pediatric/young adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Nebraska Medicine is one of the first health networks in the Midwest and the only one in Nebraska to offer the therapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to attack a tumor.

John and his parents, John and Anna Steinke, on the Special Care Unit inside Nebraska Medicine’s Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. 

“T cells are white blood cells that help our bodies fight infection and cancer,” explains Julie Vose, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology at Nebraska Medicine. “In some patients with lymphomas and leukemias, their T cells don’t recognize the cancer as being abnormal and this allows the cancers to grow. This new therapy allows us to take the patient’s own T cells outside the body and re-stimulate them to fight their own cancer.”

On Aug. 1, Steinke became the first leukemia patient to receive commercial CAR T-cell therapy at Nebraska Medicine.

“I’m really hopeful that this will work,” Steinke said, as his modified T cells were placed back into his blood stream – just a few weeks shy of his 23rd birthday.

“John has been so brave and strong throughout his cancer journey,” says his mom, Anna. “Living here in Omaha, we’re so grateful to have Nebraska Medicine in our own backyard.”

“In my opinion, there’s no need to travel anywhere else for cancer care,” adds Steinke’s dad. “The entire team has been amazing.”

U.S. News Ranks Nebraska Medical Center as the Best Hospital in Nebraska

U.S. News & World Report evaluates nearly 5,000 hospitals nationwide to come up with their annual list of Best Hospitals. And once again, for the seventh straight year, Nebraska Medical Center is the No. 1 rated hospital in the state. Additionally, the Nebraska Medical Center Gynecology Program received a national ranking, the only hospital in the state to have a nationally ranked specialty.

U.S. News also rated Nebraska Medical Center as high performing in eight other specialties, receiving more high-performing rankings than any other facility in Nebraska. Those specialties are:

  • Cancer
  • Gastroenterology and GI Surgery
  • Geriatrics
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • Orthopaedics
  • Pulmonology
  • Urology

Finally, the medical center received the highest ranking possible in five procedures/conditions:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair
  • Colon Cancer Surgery
  • Heart Bypass Surgery
  • Heart Failure
  • Hip Replacement

“This ranking is because of the dedication of our physicians, caregivers and staff who care for patients every day. I have the highest respect for their commitment,” says CEO James Linder, MD. “To again earn this recognition reflects our belief that continual improvement allows us to provide the highest quality services for the people of Nebraska, the surrounding region, and referred patients from around the world. My thanks to everyone at Nebraska Medicine who makes this possible.”

The annual Best Hospitals rankings, now in their 29th year, are designed to assist patients and their doctors in making informed decisions about where to receive care for challenging health conditions or for common elective procedures.

For the 2018-19 rankings, U.S. News evaluated medical centers nationwide in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions. In the 16 specialty areas, 158 hospitals were ranked in at least one specialty. In rankings by state and metro area, U.S. News recognized hospitals as high performing across multiple areas of care.

The U.S. News Best Hospitals methodologies in most areas of care are based largely or entirely on objective measures such as risk-adjusted survival and readmission rates, volume, patient experience, patient safety and quality of nursing, among other care-related indicators.

Nebraska Medical Center Earns Chest Pain Accreditation

Nebraska Medical Center has again earned full accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention) from the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The designation is awarded based on a rigorous on-site evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.

PCI is also known as a coronary angioplasty. It is a non-surgical procedure that opens narrowed or blocked coronary arteries with a balloon to relieve symptoms of heart disease or reduce heart damage during or after a heart attack.

Hospitals that have earned ACC Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI Accreditation have proven exceptional competency in their ability to integrate evidence-based science, clinical best practices, and the latest ACC/AHA guidelines to deliver consistent, reliable, safe, and high-quality care to heart and vascular patients.

“This designation is an important distinction for Nebraska Medicine and is especially relevant in our journey in becoming a highly reliable organization,” says Melissa Lederer, manager, Heart and Vascular Quality and Outcomes. “The ACC’s framework has allowed us to demonstrate our commitment and continued efforts around performance improvement, standardization, education, and community outreach. The end result is a dedicated team providing state-of-the-art heart and vascular care to patients presenting with heart attack symptoms. I am extremely proud of the Chest Pain team for their effort and dedication to improving outcomes for this patient population.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. The most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms. Other heart attack symptoms include, but are not limited to, tingling or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, cold sweat, unusual tiredness, heartburn-like feeling, nausea or vomiting, sudden dizziness and fainting.

New Radioactive Cancer Drug Available at Nebraska Medicine

Marilyn Cody became the first Nebraska Medicine patient to receive Lutathera, a newly approved radioactive cancer drug, which is flown in from Italy.

Marilyn Cody loves being outside on her 400-acre farm and hopes her new cancer drug treatment will allow her to continue to mow and garden.

Marilyn Cody may be one of the most optimistic people you’ll ever meet.

“I rely on God, my church and my family – you just have to have faith!”

After losing her husband, sister, son and son-in-law, to different forms of cancer, the 74 year old was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. Cody underwent surgery and chemotherapy, which prolonged her life for four years. Until recently, the Griswold, Iowa, woman thought she was out of options – until her team at Nebraska Medicine suggested a new therapy.

“I like being the guinea pig,” smiles Cody.

On June 14, Cody became the first Nebraska Medicine patient to receive Lutathera, a newly approved radioactive cancer drug, which is flown in from Italy. It’s used to treat a type of cancer that affects the pancreas or gastrointestinal tract, called gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs).

“This is one of the newest types of drugs, which are directed at specific molecules on the cancer cells,” explains radiologist Neil Hansen, MD. “It’s radiation, but it goes inside the patient, gets targeted directly to the cancer, and hones in on that cancer to deliver it without the side effects of radiation to other parts of the body.”

“I feel so much better with this therapy,” adds Cody. “Chemotherapy was hard, but this is better.”

Because the drug is radioactive, radiation safety officers are there to monitor the risk of radiation exposure. The nurses also have a device that measures the amount of radioactivity in the room, emitting from the patient.

“We have a great team here – our infusion nurses, radiation safety officers and nuclear medicine technologists; everyone is on board and we’ve kept the dose very safe,” says Dr. Hansen.

Cody will receive the treatment three more times – in August, October and November. She’s hopeful it will give her extra years with her family, and the ability to do the things she loves the most such as gardening and mowing the lawn.

“I live on a farm with 400 acres, so I love being outside,” says Cody. “With this treatment, I really do think it will prolong my life. I just have to go for it.”

“This is the future of medicine,” adds Dr. Hansen. “We have a big neuroendocrine tumor clinic here at Nebraska Medicine and this is going to be a great therapy for those who don’t have a lot of options. It’s an exciting time.”

To learn more, watch this story from KMTV.