Dr. Neil Christie is the director of the Lung Imaging Fluorescence Endoscope (LIFE) program and Early Lung Cancer Detection Program at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center’s Hillman Cancer Center. He also serves as an assistant professor of surgery in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UPMC. With a focus on minimally invasive surgery, Christie treats a range of thoracic malignancies including pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and thymomas.
Christie and his team of surgical oncologists at Hillman use a multi-disciplinary approach to treating cancer, employing both traditional and cutting-edge therapies, depending on the particular needs of the patient. Hillman Cancer Center is an internationally recognized hub of cutting-edge cancer research, offering diagnosis, treatment, and longer term care for cancer patients and their families. Christie treats a wide variety of illnesses and conditions other than the aforementioned malignancies, including aneurysm, arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, heart disease, and pulmonary embolism.
In addition to treating existing illnesses, Christie has researched better ways to diagnose lung cancer while still in the early stages. For instance, he has been instrumental in the use of fluorescence (or “blue-light”) bronchoscopy for early lung cancer diagnosis. This procedure involves the insertion of a thin, lighted tube with an attached camera into the lungs to examine tissue for cancer growth. The fluorescent light makes abnormal (and possibly cancerous) tissue appear reddish-brown. Any suspect tissue is then sampled for a more in-depth biopsy. Catching lung and other thoracic cancers early provides the best chances for recovery.
With the goal of favoring minimally invasive surgical procedures, Christie has advocated for the use of alternatives to the traditional, more-invasive methods of esophagectomies and thymectomies using inserted cameras. In addition, he is a proponent of stereotactic radiosurgery and a nonsurgical alternative to traditional radiation therapy. This type of treatment focuses radiation on tumors in order to spare healthy tissue that otherwise may be damaged. This type of treatment is typically a better option for older, less-healthy lung cancer patients who would not do well with a traditional lobectomy (in which portions of the lung are removed). Ultimately, Christie’s goal is minimize or even eliminate the need for surgery in the treatment of certain thoracic cancers.
Christie is regularly involved in clinical trials looking at better ways to diagnose cancer early and to better treat cancer with less-invasive techniques. For instance, one such trial studied the outcomes of using fluorescence bronchoscopy in patients at risk of developing lung cancer. Another clinical trial studied the detection of genetic markers of lung cancer initiation and progression. His research has been widely published by a number of well-respected medical journals, such as Thoracic Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Gastrointestinal Surgery.
Christie earned his medical degree from the University of Toronto, where he also completed his residency, before pursuing fellowships at the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is board certified in thoracic and cardiac surgery.
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