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Patient Matters: Patient Stories From New York Hospital Queens

Traveling From Overseas for Cancer Treatment Right Here in Queens

Philip Gaitanis – Athens, Greece

How does an electrical engineer from Athens, Greece end up being the first person to undergo a new form of cancer treatment in Flushing, Queens?

Philip Gaitanis, 55, was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.  After the initial shock wore off, Gaitanis used the Internet to research his treatment options. He found these included surgery to remove his prostate, or an internal radiation procedure known as brachytherapy.

Gaitanis further learned that cesium-131, an enhancement to the brachytherapy procedure, could offer fewer side effects and less complications after radiation. However, this procedure wasn’t being performed in Greece.

Gaitanis decided he would travel to the place that did. Gaitanis discovered this procedure was only performed in the US, and the radiation oncologist who pioneered cesium-131 was Dattatreyudu Nori, M.D.  In fact, Dr. Nori, Chairman of Radiation Oncology at New York Hospital Queens, was the first to perform this procedure on the east coast.  Dr. Nori is also a Professor of Clinical Radiology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Radiation Oncologist-in-Chief at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

Brachytherapy involves radioactive material (sealed in needles) placed directly into or near a tumor. It requires the implantation of radioactive seeds into the tumor site. Cesium-131, a radioactive isotope, has a shorter half-life, which means a faster delivery of medication and less time, and opportunity, for the cancer cells to repopulate. This treatment also provides less radiation to normal healthy tissues. Because the cesium-131 treatment is stronger than other treatments, fewer radioactive seeds are required and it reduces the risk of urinary reactions following implantation.

“It was tough to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at my age, but I was very fortunate that it was detected at such an early stage,” said Gaitanis. “I wanted to make sure that I explored all my options and wasn’t quite ready to settle on surgery.”

In December 2006, Gaitanis, along with his wife Antigone, traveled to New York to meet with Dr. Nori for a consultation. Dr. Nori, who practices in Manhattan and Queens, recommended that Gaitanis have the cesium-131 treatment in Queens. Since Gaitanis has relatives in Kew Gardens, he readily agreed.

“Since New York Hospital Queens is the only medical institution in the borough offering cesium-131 radiation therapy, Mr. Gaitanis made the right decision to travel so far for treatment,” said Dattatreyudu Nori, M.D., Chairman of the Radiation Oncology Department at New York Hospital Queens. “Although Mr. Gaitanis traveling here for treatment was a special circumstance, I was happy to help him. We look forward to performing this procedure with other prostate cancer patients, right here in Queens.”

On February 21, Gaitanis had the cesium-131 brachytherapy procedure. It was completed within two hours and he was able to leave the Cancer Center that day. Gaitanis reported that he only had minimal discomfort that evening.

New York Hospital Queens provides state-of-the-art radiation therapies, many of which are unique to its Cancer Center. The Cancer Center is continuously refining therapies based upon new information from research, combining various modes of treatment in new and powerful ways, and making major advancements in tailoring treatment plans to the needs of the individual. The Cancer Center is one of only 25 percent of hospitals across the country that has accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

New York Hospital Queens is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System and affiliated with The Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

gaitanis and wife

Philip Gaitanis, seated with wife, Antigone, of Athens Greece, is the first individual to receive a new form of cancer treatment in Flushing, Queens.

Dattatreyudu Nori

Dattatreyudu Nori, M.D., Chairman of Radiation Oncology at New York Hospital Queens

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