Uma Goyal, MD, awarded 2015-16 Better Than Ever research grant

Uma Goyal, MD, will receive a $25,500 research grant from the University of Arizona Cancer Center’s Better Than Ever (BTE) program to study improved techniques for specialized brachytherapy treatments for cervical cancer patients.

BTE is a fitness training and fundraising program designed to help make walking, running or biking a regular part life.  The program also raises funds to support investigator-initiated clinical trials focusing on breast and gynecologic cancers under the umbrella of Women’s Cancers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center.  This year, the UACC continues to focus on investigator-initiated clinical trials for women’s cancers.

Dr. Goyal is a radiation oncology resident, mentored by Shona Dougherty, MD, ChB, PhD, Professor of Radiation Oncology. She received her MD at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and completed her internship in Internal Medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, CA.

Each year, the BTE Scientific Review Committee, led by Setsuko K. Chambers, MD, chooses recipients for these grants.  This year’s award brings the 15-year grant distribution total to more than $1.9 million.

Dr. Goyal’s study hopes to lead toward major breakthroughs in cervical cancer treatment, as this cancer continues to account for the highest incidence worldwide among gynecologic cancers. Additionally, disadvantaged populations, such as in the southwest, face considerable disparities with significant barriers to access to care.

The UA Department of Radiation Oncology has been responsive to these realities and has strived to improve brachytherapy techniques to allow for fewer visits, so that more patients will complete their multiple treatments within the recommended period of time. Brachytherapy—or Internal Radiation Therapy (IRT)—is a procedure that places a radioactive source inside the patient’s body in or near a tumor so the radiation has to travel only a short distance, limiting its impact on healthy body tissue.

“Studies have shown that radiation treatments that are delivered over longer numbers of weeks lead to poorer survival,” Dr. Goyal said. “In addition, the brachytherapy component is absolutely critical to the treatment plan. Inadequate or missing brachytherapy applications lead to central pelvis failures, as external beam radiation therapy alone is inadequate for control of cervical cancer.”

Dr. Goyal’s hypothesis is that the use of inflatable balloons for immobilization of Tandem and Ovoid apparatus in patients undergoing brachytherapy radiation for cervical cancer has significant advantages over the traditional gauze packing techniques. This study is a combined retrospective and prospective study of this specialized brachytherapy approach using inflatable balloons to improve access of disadvantaged cervical cancer patients to critical brachytherapy applications.

In more than 30 cases, the pilot research conducted through BTE grants have allowed researchers to gain the data necessary to seek major awards from national agencies and organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society ,and others. BTE-funded research has resulted in 63 publications in academic journals, 42 presentations at scientific conferences and 32 other programs and poster presentations.

Over the years, Better Than Ever has trained more than 4,000 women and men in a non-competitive atmosphere at all fitness levels to include regular activity for health benefits. In 2015, more than 100 participants are training for and participating in local races and other fitness events in Tucson, Phoenix, Green Valley and Sedona. Some BTE participants have participated in fitness events in California and Massachusetts.

BTE is a free program, and participants are asked to meet a modest fundraising goal, with donations supporting the research grant program.

-June 8, 2015