Shilpa Vyas, M.D.

Buffalo’s Roswell Park radiation oncologist now seeing patients at Oneida Health Cancer Care

By Chris Motola

Vyas
Vyas

Q: Give us an overview of how the partnership with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center work for a hospital like Oneida Health.

A: Roswell Park has collaborated with Oneida Health to establish radiation oncology in Oneida. They had previously done the same for medical oncology. We’re all Roswell Park physicians who are here locally to provide care to the people of Central New York. We’ve brought diagnostic machines, a CT scanner, a Truebeam linear accelerator, and a simulator to the site, and the medical oncology center has all the chemo-related facilities. It’s all done under the guidance of physicians from Roswell Park

Q: How do you coordinate standards and care and procedures over such a large distance?

A: We use the same standards of care in Oneida as they use in Buffalo. All of the treatment plans undergo a very, very meticulous review, not only by me but through a peer review process where all the radiation oncologists at Roswell give their own input. I send all of the information on the patients I’m seeing in Oneida to Buffalo electronically for patients who have something unique in their condition that could use the input of more physicians. We discuss these patients in tumor boards, which are routinely conducted at the main campus in Buffalo. Then they’ll send me their recommendations, and I make sure they’re matching my own to provide a comprehensive approach to the patient’s care.

Q: What kinds of capabilities has the partnership brought to Oneida?

A: What I really want to point out is that Roswell Park is the only NCI-designated (National Cancer Institute) cancer treatment with a presence center in the area. This collaboration has brought the same type of care available in Buffalo to Central New York. It’s right in their backyard now, patients don’t have to drive long distances to be able to access that level of care. We have the capability to perform very focused radiation treatment. We are the only facility in the area with a simulator on site. You don’t have to make any extra visits outside of the area to start your cancer treatment. You’re getting support from highly committed professionals who are committed not just to care, but to research. You’re getting the same care you could expect to get at any other NCI-designated site.

Q: Are you in Oneida full-time?

A: Yes.

Q: Are you transplant from Buffalo?

A: Yes, but I’m fairly recent to Upstate New York. I started working at the Roswell Park main campus, but was hired for the Oneida facility. I was instrumental in getting things started here, establishing the workforce, getting the facility ready, getting the state of the art technology we needed to provide the best care. I’m full-time in Oneida now.

Q: What kinds of patients are you seeing?

A: We are equipped to treat any cancer. The patients we’ve seen so far have mostly been those with common cancers: breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer. We’ve seen some head and neck cancers, some lymphoma, gastrointestinal tumors, anal and rectal tumors.

Q: What is the closest Roswell Park-affiliate to you? Do you work with them, or are you mostly connected through the main campus?

A: I think Ithaca might be the closest, but no, regardless of where we are, we all have input into the treatment plan reviews. Basically, the umbilical cord goes through Buffalo.

Q: What applications does radiation oncology have that patients may not be aware of?

A: External beam radiation can treat cancer at any site with a machine that delivers radiation externally, with the source away from your body. That’s used for almost all cancers. There are a few cancers, though, where there’s access for an applicator inside the patient’s body. That treatment is not provided at any of the Roswell Park satellite offices because it’s a more specialized treatment. We do that at our main campus in Buffalo. Now, very few cancers qualify for that sort of treatment, mostly some gynecological or prostate cancers. If a patient’s a candidate for that, we can refer them. But external radiation therapy is what we have here at Oneida.

Q: How big a staff does Roswell Park maintain at Oneida?

A: At this facility it’s the physician, the radiation physicist, the radiation dosimetrist, a central manager, two full-time therapists and a parttime therapist, a full-time nurse, and a front desk person. And we work with Oneida to provide nutritional and social service support.


Lifelines

Name: Shilpa Vyas, M.D.
Position: Medical director, Oneida Health Roswell Park Radiation Oncology
Previous position: Radiation oncologist with Seattle-based Tumor Institute Radiation Oncology Group/TIROG, providing radiation oncology services at Swedish Cancer Institute and Valley Medical Center
Hometown: Bhopal, India
Education: Gandhi Medical College; Rani Durgawati University
Training: Senior fellow, proton therapy, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle; residency in radiation oncology, Baylor-Scott & White program at Texas A&M University, Temple, Texas
Affiliations: Oneida Health; Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Organizations: American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology; American Brachytherapy Society; American Society of Clinical Oncologists. Board-certified in radiation oncology
Family: Husband; 5-year old son
Hobbies: Cooking, time with son, hiking, reading, music

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