Dr. Meghan Garstka

Meghan Garstka, MD

The number of clinical trials offered for breast cancer patients is on the rise within the University of Maryland Cancer Network, leading to new treatments for the disease and improved clinical outcomes.

Effective breast cancer treatment incorporates a multidisciplinary approach, so it makes sense that many of the network’s new and recent clinical trials also include multidisciplinary aspects, said Meghan Garstka, MD, assistant professor of surgery with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and breast surgeon at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health’s Kaufman Cancer Center.

“Much of the treatment of breast cancer is multidisciplinary, and it’s really hard to disconnect the different services from each other with regards to the way in which they interplay,” said Garstka, who joined UM Upper Chesapeake Health in September.

Many trials occur in the postoperative setting, where patients can discuss options for adjuvant radiation or adjuvant chemotherapy oncology trials after they’ve had their surgery performed, she said.

One example is the DCISionRT trial, which involves a test that quantifies the risk of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) recurring and evaluates if radiation therapy is beneficial for DCIS patients following breast conserving therapy.

“The trial is seeking information to forego radiation in DCIS breast cancer management based on a patient’s genomics,” said Jack Hong, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and medical director of radiation oncology at the Kaufman Cancer Center.

But there are also new trials that explore the pre-operative setting. For example, Garstka and Suliat Nurudeen, MD, assistant professor of surgical oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and medical director of the Breast Health Center at UM St. Joseph Medical Center, are co-investigators on a trial exploring the effects of neoadjuvant endocrine therapy (endocrine therapy before surgery) for breast cancer patients.

“We’re essentially evaluating the effect of using medication preoperatively that we would typically use in the postoperative setting to see how it changes the tumor characteristics,” Garstka said.

UM Upper Chesapeake Health has a dedicated research team that screens patients regularly to see if they qualify for trials. Patients also have access to trials at other network hospitals, including the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Cancer Institute at UM St. Joseph Medical Center and the Tate Cancer Center at UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

“Through clinical trials, we’ve progressed in our ability to treat breast cancer more efficiently,” Garstka said. “By having the trials open to our patients, we can truly provide access to cutting-edge technologies and state-of-the-art treatment.”

The UM Cancer Network offers over 150 clinical trials to help in the fight against cancer. Learn more about trials close to your practice.