Physicians collaborate across Kansas to improve patient outcomes
When Chris Frasco was diagnosed with multiple myeloma eight years ago, her doctor said her condition could not be cured but was treatable. He provided a plan of attack and then told her she should feel free to seek a second opinion elsewhere at any time.
Chris, who lives in Wichita, said she knew she was in good hands with her hematologist/oncologist Dennis F. Moore Jr., MD, at the Cancer Center of Kansas in Wichita. She moved forward with Dr. Moore's proscribed treatment of intensive chemotherapy followed by two consecutive autologous stem cell transplants.
Dr. Moore said back-to-back transplants offered Chris the best treatment option and a better chance at a longer remission. That was the case for a number of months. Then a protein in Chris' blood became elevated, indicating her treatment was losing its effectiveness. She began taking a targeted chemotherapy drug, which helped manage her disease for another year.
Eventually, the targeted therapy stopped working, and Chris said it was time to look for expertise outside the Wichita area. She turned to The University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City and Joseph McGuirk, DO, medical director of blood and marrow transplant, for a second opinion.
"I had done enough research to know that the cancer eventually figures out the treatment and you have to change course," she said, adding that Dr. Moore fully supported her decision.
"Certainly, unusual or complex cancers benefit from second opinions, and we definitely benefit from discussion with collaborating specialists," Dr. Moore said. "In Chris' case, it was particularly valuable and helped me make the determination to proceed with a third transplant in Wichita."
As long as there is treatment for my disease, I'll do whatever it takes. Quitting is not an option. – Chris Frasco
No place like home
Chris, who was 63 when she visited The University of Kansas Cancer Center in January 2013, sought Dr. McGuirk's expertise because few patients are candidates for a third stem cell transplant. After a thorough exam and assessment, and collaboration with Dr. Moore, Dr. McGuirk determined Chris' good health qualified her for a third transplant.
"This type of collaboration is essential because these patients have extraordinarily, almost always, life-threatening illnesses that require prompt and very complex care," Dr. McGuirk said. "Physicians around the Kansas City metro area and throughout the state of Kansas are our colleagues and partners. It's absolutely incumbent upon us to be available to our referring physician colleagues for questions and concerns, and when they refer patients to us, to return those patients back to their care as soon as we can."
With Dr. McGuirk's blessing, Chris returned to Wichita, where Dr. Moore performed her transplant. In addition to seeing Dr. Moore, Chris continues to visit The University of Kansas Cancer Center to see Dr. McGuirk and Brea Lipe, MD, for her post-transplant follow-up care.
"I wanted to be in Wichita for the actual transplant," Chris said. "Now, Dr. Moore and Dr. Lipe confer regularly on what my next treatment will be. I've been very fortunate. My cancer journey has been manageable, and I've lived a very normal life."
Chris' life involves four adult children, three of whom work in healthcare, and four grandchildren under age 7. The achievement of which she is most proud, and rightly so, is that during her treatment for multiple myeloma she completed her bachelor's degree in business at Baker University.
"I walked across the stage to receive my diploma the day after my last chemo treatment and a week prior to my third stem cell transplant," she said. "As long as there is treatment for my disease, I'll do whatever it takes. Quitting is not an option."