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Dr. L. Christine Fang Reflects on Her Work and New Research for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Dr. L. Christine Fang Reflects on Her Work and New Research for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As one of the first two providers to staff the Center since its opening in 2013, Dr. Fang has seen it grow, especially in terms of new developments in breast cancer treatment—her area of expertise. “It’s been very exciting to be part of a growing facility like the SCCA Proton Therapy Center. In fact, I had the privilege of conducting the very first consult in the building.”

After initially working at Intel, Dr. Fang applied for and was accepted to medical school. During her time in medical school, Dr. Fang found herself drawn to the field of oncology because of the deep relationships she built with the cancer patients she treated during her rotations. She decided to pursue radiation oncology, following an elective course in medical school that solidified her interest.

After graduating from medical school, radiation oncology residency took her to Seattle, after which she completed a fellowship in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Before residency, I had no ties to the Pacific Northwest so I had no plans of settling down here," says Dr. Fang, "but the University of Washington Department of Radiation Oncology became my second family, so I very much wanted to return to Seattle to start off my career.”

Breast cancer can be challenging to treat because there are so many different types. However, physicians and researchers have made a lot of progress in individualizing treatment options, including expanding the application of proton therapy to different cancer sites, according to Dr. Fang.

“Breast cancer is a very heterogenous disease and as an oncologist, it’s my responsibility to recommend the treatment that best suits my patient’s particular case. The application of proton therapy to breast cancer patients can be advantageous for lymph-node positive cases, patients with challenging anatomy such as the lumpectomy cavity is too close to other healthy areas, and patients who have received prior radiation."

Dr. Fang appreciates the privilege of working with outstanding colleagues, and the ability to pursue cutting-edge research projects at the Center. Currently, she is involved in the RadComp study, which follows lymph node-positive breast cancer patients treated with proton or photon radiation therapy over 10 years to gauge the improvements on long-term side effects.

The study is still enrolling patients, and the SCCA Proton Therapy Center is one of the largest contributors to the study in the country. As a top enroller, the Center is anticipating being able to participate in a more extensive sub-study that will analyze the long-term heart effects of radiation treatment by utilizing echocardiograms and blood tests to test cardiac markers. So far, only three other centers are currently participating in this sub-study. 

“As I look toward the future of breast cancer treatment, I anticipate that the specialty will continue to hone in on treatment options, such as combining immunotherapy and radiation therapy, to best fit the individual needs of a patient. Due to the complexity of treating breast cancer, I think this is a promising direction for the specialty and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Dr. Fang helps staff our booth at the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event last year.