Dr. Linda Garland is the Director of Clinical Research in Thoracic Oncology and the Interim Director of Early Phase Drug Development at the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson. The veteran thoracic medical oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer and mesothelioma, focusing on experimental treatments for a wide variety of chest (thoracic) cancers. In addition to her medical practice and research, Garland also teaches clinical medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Garland earned her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1988, then completed her residency at the University of South Florida College of Medicine In Tampa. During a fellowship at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Garland specialized in hematology (the study of blood-related diseases) and oncology.
With the understanding that traditional chemotherapy is not a very effective treatment for lung cancers – particularly in light of the fact that such cancers tend to be diagnosed at a later stage – Garland has focused her research on experimental new treatments. These include newer chemotherapy drugs meant to kill lung tumors while minimizing common side effects. Specifically, she and her team are designing trials with newer chemotherapy drugs and small molecules that better target cancer cells (individualized to each patient) while minimizing harm to healthy tissue.
Garland, along with fellow researchers and mesothelioma experts Dr. Raja Flores and Anne Tsao, published “Individualizing Mesothelioma Treatment: Small Steps Into a Brighter Future” in the journal Clinical Lung Cancer in 2010, outlining the next great frontier in mesothelioma treatment. Recent studies have found a wide variance in how patients respond to treatments, rendering the “one-size-fits-all” approach inadequate. The current trend toward individualized treatment is based on molecular and genetic profiling of patients’ tumors, allowing doctors to fine-tune the right treatment for each patient.
Garland combines the use of drugs with surgery and was part of a surgical team that performed one of the first successful extrapleural pneumonectomy procedures, meant to treat patients with malignant mesothelioma. This procedure is quite invasive and involves the removal of a lung, portions of the diaphragm, and the parietal pleura and pericardium (the linings of the lungs and the heart). Only those whose cancer hasn’t spread beyond the chest cavity, and who are deemed fit enough to recover, are considered for this procedure. Only the most sophisticated and well-equipped medical centers, such as the University of Arizona Cancer Center, are able to perform extrapleural pneumonectomies.
Garland and her team also work to find new strategies for the prevention of lung cancer as well as possible cures.
The medical center’s Southwest Lung Cancer Program provides a variety of services for patients, including the initial evaluation of chest images showing abnormalities, diagnosis of lung cancers, and treatment of lung cancer at all stages. Additionally, patients have access to the latest treatments through participation in clinical trials.
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