New head and neck cancer specialist brings cutting-edge treatment and research to Hollings | MUSK

Bhisham Chera, MDfeels like coming home, with her new role at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. The head and neck cancer researcher and radiation oncologist attended medical school at MUSC before going on a residency at the University of Florida. He comes to Hollings from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

“I’ve been trying to get back to Charleston and MUSC since I graduated medical school over 18 years ago,” Chera said. “I saw this opportunity and jumped on it because I know how much emphasis MUSC places on patient care and academic research.”

Chera is excited to join the growth head and neck cancer team which combines expertise in all facets of clinical research and patient care. “The Hollings Head and Neck Cancer Program is already one of the best programs in the country because it brings together all the specialists needed to care for these patients under one roof. Now we have the opportunity to build on that and become a center of excellence so patients know they are getting the best possible care when they come to Hollings.

Chera is a renowned expert in head and neck cancer radiation therapy and has been involved in several recent advances in detection and treatment. While at UNC, Chera began investigating ways to create less intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments for patients with HPV-associated head and neck cancer. In South Carolina, there has been a significant increase in HPV-related head and neck cancers, which have now overtaken cervical cancer as the most diagnosed cancer. HPV-related cancer in the countryside.

“I want to create innovative phase one or two clinical trials that can provide Hollings patients with access to cutting-edge new treatments that are poised to be the next big breakthrough in cancer care. We can do it in Hollings, and that should get everyone excited.
— Dr. Bhisham Chera

“Our treatments for head and neck cancer are very curative, but they’re also very toxic,” he said. “You have patients who have been cured of cancer, but they have long-term debilitating side effects from their treatments. That’s why I’m interested in looking at reduced intensity treatments to see if there are ways to make the treatment more effective and less toxic at the same time.

Chera is interested in improving the quality of life for patients with head and neck cancer and hopes to participate in the survivorship research that other Hollings Head and Neck program participants, including Evan Graboyes, MDand Katherine Sterba, Ph.D.are already leading.

Chera was also part of a team that developed a blood test called NavDx. Using proprietary technology, the test can better detect and monitor HPV-related cancers by examining tumor-modified circulating HPV DNA in the blood. Chera said ongoing research aims to determine if the blood test can help doctors make treatment decisions and also detect abnormalities before an HPV-related cancer forms.

Survival, early detection and improved, less toxic treatment align with Chera’s overall focus on translational clinical research. He hopes his work at Hollings will further improve patient care and outcomes. By combining clinical care expertise with academic research, Chera said the Hollings Head and Neck Cancer team is poised to become a premier program for patient care and outcomes in the country.

“I want to create innovative phase one or two clinical trials that can provide Hollings patients with access to cutting-edge new treatments that are poised to be the next big breakthrough in cancer care. We can do it in Hollings, and that should get everyone excited.

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