St. Luke's surgical oncologist Lee B. Riley, MD, PhD, medical director of St. Luke's Cancer Center, will get his head and beard shaved to experience the hair loss his patients with breast cancer often endure.
"Losing hair is one of the things women undergoing treatment for breast cancer fear most," says Dr. Riley
"For years I've told patients their hair will grow back, but I'm willing to learn what this one side effect is like.
I just thought this would mean more to these women if I put myself in their shoes and experienced what they endure."
will go completely bald and have his
beard shaved intentionally in front of viewers throughout the Lehigh Valley
who tune into WFMZ-TV Channel 69 news Thursday, June 12, at 8 am.
The experience also will serve to raise some of the monies needed to further his
breast cancer vaccine research.
is one of a select group of doctors involved with breast cancer vaccine research nationwide.
If $10,000 or more is raised, Dr. Riley
will agree to have his
eyebrows shaved in front of the camera as well.
"We've received support from several local groups, including Dr. Riley's patients, St. Luke's employees, teachers from the Bethlehem, Easton and Quakertown school districts, and members of local groups such as Harley Owners of the Lehigh Valley and Pirates in Paradise, Lehigh Valley chapter," she says.
"The Quakertown Kiwanis has even chartered a bus to come out for Wednesday to support the girls.
They'll have their meeting on the bus on the way over and come out to participate."
The winning team will be announced Thursday morning on Channel 69.
The biggest tippers and Dr. Riley's
patients will be in attendance and get a chance to shave a section of hair along with the winning team.
About the vaccine research
is convinced his
breast cancer research holds promise.
"There are at least 30 different vaccines being tested right now in women with advanced breast cancer," says the physician.
"The strategy behind this one is different.
We are comparing different immune stimulants to identify which stimulant, or which combination of several stimulants provides the strongest vaccine.
We are studying this in women with early breast cancer - a time when we believe the vaccine will be the most effective."
A week before the tumor and lymph gland are removed surgically, the tumor is "killed" with radiofrequency ablation, a technique similar to microwaves, according to Dr. Riley
This technique is performed under local anesthetic.
Currently, the immune stimulating drug GM-CSF is injected into the killed tumor and a vaccine is made inside the tumor.
"We have known for a long time which immune stimulants work best in mice, but it's not clear that they work the same in patients," says Dr. Riley
The ultimate goal of the vaccine is to generate a long-term durable response, according to Dr. Riley
"Today women with breast cancer have surgery to remove the tumor; chemotherapy and radiation are also part of the protocol to limit the risk of the disease coming back," he
"Still nearly 30 percent of women with breast cancer will have a recurrence.
Ultimately, we hope to demonstrate a marked decrease of cancer recurrence in women who have had this vaccine therapy."
A positive result for breast cancer patients could mean positive implications for other solid tumors and even lymphomas in the long term as well, according to Dr. Riley
A hairless, newly coiffed Dr. Riley
will go out in public to attend the grand opening celebration of the St. Luke's
Regional Breast Center in Center Valley the evening of June 12.