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through the dying process, controlling their pain or interacting with their family, he says.
Usually something good comes out of the experience even though the outcome may have been a negative, Dr. Straughn says. If you can remain focused on the positives, then you can get through the tough times.
When Dr. Straughn became fellowship director in 2009, he assumed responsibility of the fellows studying gynecologic oncology at UAB. Currently he advises six fellows. Having been here since medical school, I think this is a great place to learn, Dr. Straughn says. I was trained by some of the most talented gynecologic oncologists in the United States, and now it s my responsibility to be a teacher.
Dr. Straughn enjoys this training and men-
toring aspect of his job the most. The stu- dents spend one year in the research lab with Donald Buchsbaum, Ph.D., a Cancer Center senior scientist and director of the Division of Radiation Biology. Dr. Straughn then comes in to mentor the fellows for the last two years of clinical training. He says the process works well because the fellows can conduct research projects with both a Ph.D. and an M.D.
In addition to mentoring fellows and car- ing for patients, Dr. Straughn spends time in the lab developing new treatments for gynecologic cancers, frequently alongside Dr. Buchsbaum. Their latest research effort began in 2006 with Cancer Center Director
Emeritus Albert LoBuglio, M.D., and scien- tist Tong Zhou, M.D. Dr. Straughn served as the primary investigator, funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The project, titled Death Receptor- Mediated Apoptosis and Therapy Strategies in Ovarian Cancer, currently is in its final stages. What began as just a theory in the lab eventually translated into clinical trials for patients at UAB. The goal of the study was to find a treatment that kills more cancer cells than chemotherapy can kill on its own. The scientists targeted a death receptor often seen in patients with ovarian cancer with an antibody developed at UAB.
The antibody is given intravenously so that it can attack these death receptors on cancer cells, Dr. Straughn says. The study evaluated
whether outcomes were improved by adding this antibody to standard chemotherapy.
The team of researchers completed the clinical trial a year ago, administering stan- dard chemotherapy followed by the investiga- tional monoclonal antibody to patients with ovarian cancer. The trial went well, Dr. Straughn says. It was a successful bench-to- patient endeavor.
As they await results, Drs. Straughn and Buchsbaum already are seeking grant sup- port for other antibodies that can be added to chemotherapy with the goal of making the treatment more effective with less toxicity and fewer side effects.
We know that chemotherapy kills normal cells, so we need to target individual cancer cells to improve the outcomes without caus- ing unwanted side effects, Dr. Straughn says. Most of the research across the country is looking at these molecular targets, and many of them are antibody-based.
THE PLACE TO WORK Dr. Straughn feels that the work being
done at the Cancer Center is placing UAB at the forefront of cancer research and offering patients cutting-edge treatments they can only find here.
Some of the best research in the country is being done here, and the clinical care is excellent. Many patients travel here because of the ability to get cutting-edge research along with clinical trials, Dr. Straughn says. We have a great team of nurses, support staff and research staff who make it easy to work here.
Although his investigations, clinical work, fellows and patients keep him occupied, Dr. Straughn still finds time to have a few hobbies of his own. He enjoys attending concerts and has seen Madonna, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Sugarland. His favorite band, however, is his family: his wife, Heidi; daughter Hannah, who is 11 years old and plays basketball on her dad s team; daugh- ter Emily, who is seven years old and loves gymnastics; and son, John Michael III, who is two and in line to take over the family name and, perhaps, the family business one day. It keeps us busy, Dr. Straughn says, but it s what we enjoy doing.
WE HAVE A GREAT TEAM OF NURSES AND SUPPORT STAFF AND RESEARCH STAFF
WHO MAKE IT EASY TO WORK AT UAB. Dr. Michael Straughn