Dr. Valerie W. Rusch is a veteran thoracic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, N.Y. who specializes in the treatment of various cancers affecting the lungs, airways, esophagus, and chest wall. Rusch, one of the first women in the United States to earn board certification for her specialty, is considered an expert in the field. She is the Chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, a Regent of the American College of Surgeons, a Chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force of the American Joint Commission on Cancer, and the Chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the IASLC.
The native New Yorker earned her medical (MD) degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, completing her general and thoracic surgery residency in Seattle at the University of Washington. Prior to joining Memorial Sloan Kettering in 1989, Rusch trained for a year at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and spent six years as a member of the University of Washington’s faculty.
In addition to taking a more personal approach to their patients, Rusch and her colleagues make it a point to use the latest technologies to provide the most minimally invasive treatments available. Such treatments include robotic assistance, video-assisted surgery, and two techniques (endobronchial ultrasound and esophageal ultrasound) that give doctors a clear picture of the size and location of tumors without making incisions. Rusch also is an ardent proponent of using an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to thoracic cancer treatment, meeting with her diverse team of physicians regularly to discuss patient care to develop research.
Rusch also has been involved in a number of clinical trials primarily on the treatment of lung cancers. One recent study is explores the use of a particular immunotherapy drug in the treatment of operable, untreated non-small cell lung cancer. This drug (Atezolizumab) helps the immune system track down and kill cancer cells by blocking a certain protein and has been previously used for bladder cancer and advanced lung cancer. Another clinical trial Rusch has been involved with studies into the use of aerobic and resistance (weight) training in post-surgery lunch cancer patients.
In 2007 she was awarded with the Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education Socrates Award for her pioneering clinical trials involving the treatment of thoracic malignancies. Rusch continues to lecture at medical conferences around the world and has held 25 visiting professorships and lectureships. In addition, she has been published as the author or co-author of a number of medical journals and books on mesothelioma, lung cancers in general, esophageal tumors, and related medical subjects.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is widely regarded as the largest private cancer center and is also the first of its kind, combining patient care, research, and education programs. It is one of 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Care Centers and specializes in the development of new, innovative cancer therapies.
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