Cancer is an illness unlike any other – and no one knows that better than the physicians at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS), the largest independent privately-held medical oncology/hematology group in the United States and the leading community oncology practice in Florida.
“It’s a time of great promise in the war against cancer,” says Dr. Patrick Acevedo of the Ocala office of Florida Cancer Specialists. “The evolution of cancer treatment over the past 10 to 15 years has resulted in far better outcomes for patients. So, even if there is not a cure for every type of cancer, more people are living with the disease and experiencing a good quality of life than ever before.”
A resident of Ocala, Dr. Acevedo has been in private practice since 2004; he and Dr. Rakesh Rohatgi are the senior partners of the Florida Cancer Specialists practice in Ocala.
Dr. Rohatgi has been serving patients in Sumter and Marion Counties for over 20 years and has always worked closely with local physicians, major teaching hospitals and other facilities to create a treatment plan that is the best for each and every patient.
“Today, we are able to offer many more options for patients than we were even five years ago,” Dr. Rohatgi explains. “With the advent of targeted treatments and now immunotherapies that are based on a patient’s unique genetic profile, we are seeing survival rates reach well over 90% for many types of cancer.”
Rounding out the Ocala oncology team are Drs. Vipul Patel, who trained at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN and joined the practice in 2014, and Shilpa Oberoi, who came on board in January 2016. Dr. Oberoi completed her Fellowship in Oncology/Hematology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Orlando Health in Orlando, FL. “Being able to work with the outstanding physicians here in Ocala, and across the state as a part of the Florida Cancer Specialists network is a true honor,” says Dr. Oberoi. “Our practice brings the latest advances in cancer treatment to patients right here in the local community.”A native of Atlanta, GA, Dr. Vipul Patel is highly committed to clinical trial research; it is, in fact, one of the reasons he joined Florida Cancer Specialists. “Through our strategic partnership with Sarah Cannon Research Institute, we offer more access to national clinical trials than any other community practice in the state, including Phase 1 Clinical Trials (first in human),” says Dr. Patel.
Normal cells turn into cancer because of damage to DNA.
DNA is the genetic material that makes up every cell. When a gene mutation occurs, it is a permanent change in the DNA sequence that is part of every human cell. Gene mutations can be inherited from a parent or acquired due to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoking, the most common cause for lung cancer. While there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because of the out-of-control growth of genetically mutated cells.
“Physicians are now able to compare large sequences of DNA in tumor cells,” Acevedo explains. “When such comparisons are made, they can yield an enormous amount of information about the type of cancer a patient has; so, as a physician, I can make the best choice for treatment.”
Today, millions of people are surviving cancer and most oncologists feel that cancer is becoming more like a chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension. In other words, even though no cure has been found yet for many types of cancer, the disease is something that can be managed and people can live with cancer for many years when it is being controlled by treatment.
Early detection and diagnosis, as well as advances such as targeted therapies, most of which are available in pill form, are making it possible to live with cancer and continue to have a good quality of life; some of these newer treatments have actually produced virtual cures for many types of cancer.
Another extremely promising area of cancer treatment is immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to help fight and destroy cancer cells. Various types of therapies are being developed to improve, target, or restore immune system function, including synthetic immune system proteins called monoclonal antibodies and vaccines that trigger an immune response against certain cell abnormalities.
Today, most cancer is treated in community oncology practices, close to where patients live.
Back in 1965, if you were diagnosed with cancer, you would have to go to a hospital or academic medical center to be treated – and sometimes the treatment was just as bad as the cancer itself. Thanks to rapidly advancing genomic research and participation in clinical trials, this is no longer the case. Patients can now receive the most advanced care at the same location where they see their oncologist, thus increasing convenience and improving their quality of life.
Founded in 1984, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) is the largest independent medical oncology/hematology practice in the United States. With over 180 physicians, 150 nurse practitioners and physician assistants and over 90 locations in our network, Florida Cancer Specialists has built a national reputation for excellence that is reflected in exceptional and compassionate patient care, driven by innovative clinical research and cutting-edge technologies that help advance targeted treatments and genetically-based immunotherapies, and embodied by our outstanding team of highly-trained and dedicated physicians, clinicians and staff.