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Thoracic Oncology

Q&A with Richard J. Battafarano, M.D., Ph.D.

Richard J. Battafarano, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Richard Battafarano has been named the new chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Battafarano comes to Maryland from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He recently shared his thoughts on what he hopes to accomplish in his new position.

What influenced your decision to come to the University of Maryland Medical Center?

I was very excited about the opportunity to lead a program within the Department of Surgery in a place with an excellent medical school, a great hospital, and a strong commitment to research. It was clear to me that the University of Maryland Medical Center has all of the elements in place to create a first-class center for the treatment of the full range of diseases of the chest. I was impressed with Dr. Bartlett’s (Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D., professor and chairman of surgery) vision for the Department of Surgery as well as the medical center’s dedication to excellence in patient care.

There was also an attraction in moving closer to family. Both my wife and I have parents living in the Phildelphia area, where we both grew up.

What are your specific clinical interests?

I primarily care for patients with lung and esophageal cancer with my contribution focusing on the surgical staging and resection of their tumors. However, other areas of interest include the optimal management of patients with Barrett’s esophagus and high grade dysplasia (a pre-cancerous lesion), mediastinal tumors, and metastatic cancer to the lung or pleural space. In all of these diseases, I work closely with specialists in gastroenterology, medical oncology, and radiation oncology so that a plan is formulated individually for each patient.

What are your goals for the Division of Thoracic Surgery?

Building on the program’s success, I want to expand the level of service we offer to patients, and spread the word in the community about the breadth and depth of experience that is available here. One of my primary goals is to provide easy access for patients, seven days a week. We understand how important it is to be available to see patients in the office as soon as possible and yet be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of patients and their families when scheduling appointments. For patients that require immediate hospitalization or transfer to our medical center, one of us is always available 24 hours a day.

The division already has an excellent reputation and an experienced team in my colleagues Dr. Whitney Burrows and Dr. King Kwong. I look forward to further expanding our reach so that we become the “go to” resource for patients with any type of chest disease from around the entire region. We have the expertise to handle the very complicated thoracic cases and to provide the most advanced, state-of-the-art care available. We want referring physicians and patients to know that they can call us, even if surgery is not the ultimate treatment recommended.

We plan to reach out to members of the medical community, both through personal visits and the cooperative professional groups, so that when they have a patient with a serious or complicated condition, they can call us anytime and know that their patient will be evaluated quickly.

What other conditions do you treat in addition to surgery for cancer?

We treat all diseases of the chest. These include video-assisted thoracic surgery, known as VATS, which is a minimally invasive way of operating on the chest without the need for a large, incisions and trauma to the patient’s rib cage. We also do specialized procedures such as VATS lobectomy for early stage lung cancer, lung volume reduction surgery, sympathectomy, (a surgical treatment for hyperhydrosis or excessive sweating), stent therapyfor patients with narrowed airways associated with cancer, and a wide range of other surgical procedures of the chest and lung. We use a minimally invasive approach wherever we can, whether in lung biopsies, esophageal surgery or anatomic lung resections such as lobectomy.

You were very involved with the Great American SmokeOut in St. Louis. Are you aware of Maryland’s Cigarette Restitution Fund Program to use tobacco lawsuit settlement funds for research and treatment of smoking-related diseases?

Yes, I am aware of the CRF program, which is a real advantage for the people of Maryland. Having these funds available for treatment and research of smoking-related diseases is a major benefit. Smoking is obviously implicated heavily in the development of lung cancer, but epidemiological studies have shown that people who are smokers are prone to a number of other cancers, as well as emphysema and heart. Anti-smoking efforts are so important for everyone’s well-being and I’ll continue to be involved in this here at Maryland.

Do you have any specific research interests?

Yes, my research is primarily in the area of esophageal cancer. Unlike normal cells of the body, cancer cells divide and grow out of control. My research is focused specifically on a particular genetic signaling pathway (known as WNT), that regulates cell growth and that is over-expressed in patients with esophageal cancer. We’re trying to find out if there are targeted agents or other combination therapies that can block this pathway and thereby halt the spread of cancer in these patients.

To make an appointment or for more information on thoracic surgery or thoracic oncology services at UMMC, please contact us at 410-328-6366 or fax 410-328-0693.

Dr. Battafarano’s recent publications.

This page was last updated on: October 15, 2007.