For Doctors Day, we asked Uma Borate, M.D., M.S., about being a cancer doctor. Dr. Borate specializes in hematology and leukemia at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
What drives you to want to take down cancer?
I see older patients with an aggressive blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia or AML. These patients are often 60 years or older. These are the golden years of their lives, when their time is finally their own after working hard, raising their children, they are now free to spend time pursuing their passions or spending time with grandkids. All that changes with an AML diagnosis. Now their time is spent in waiting rooms, dealing with side effects of chemotherapy, worrying about their limited income in paying their medical bills. My motivation is these people whose time should be theirs to finally do what they love, not spend it battling cancer.
How has the overall outlook for your patients changed over the course of your career?
The outlook for AML has changed tremendously for the better. Not too long ago, we had very limited and fairly toxic treatment options. However, in the last year or so, we have several new targeted and less toxic FDA approved therapies for AML that have improved the quality and quantity of life for our patients. For older patients though, AML remains a challenging cancer. We are proud to have the innovative precision-oncology based ‘Beat AML’ trial – sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – for AML patients older than 60 available at OHSU. I am hopeful clinical trials such as these will give back my patients their precious hard-earned time to spend as they please.