Through her studies at Johns Hopkins, Yale New Haven Hospital, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Toral Patel, M.D., learned from some of the top engineers and surgeons in the world. Now, as Director of the UT Southwestern Brain Tumor Program, she’s integrating her background in biomedical engineering with a patient-centric approach to clinical care.
“I chose the field of neurosurgery because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of critically ill patients,” Dr. Patel says. “I also wanted to combine my interests in engineering and discovery with medicine. It is a privilege to be a neurosurgical oncologist. I have the unique opportunity to help patients during some of the most difficult moments in their lives and to see them through to better health.”
Integral to that approach, she says, is the unique access to clinical trials available to patients at
UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Many brain tumor patients have conditions that are not readily curable, but there are often clinical trials available at academic medical centers like UT Southwestern,” she says. For example, a current trial for recurrent glioblastoma utilizes catheters to infuse radiation-containing nanoparticles into the tumor – made possible, in part, by Dr. Patel’s prior research.
During her neurosurgery residency at Yale, she worked on developing nanoparticles and sizing them for infusion through catheters and into the brain. That work, published by the National Academy of Sciences a decade ago, contributed to the advancement of this type of clinical translation, she says. She holds a patent titled “Highly penetrative nanocarriers for treatment of CNS disease” related to her research into how nanoparticles can be used to carry drugs directly to the site of brain tumors.
In clinical settings, Dr. Patel strives to build strong relationships with her patients through what she calls the “art of medicine.” This includes personally calling patients with test results, conferencing with family members during hospital rounds, and establishing a level of trust that allows the patient to be receptive to participation in clinical trials.
“I want patients to feel like they have an advocate and someone they can trust in their health care journey,” she says. “I believe that building strong relationships with patients is absolutely fundamental to providing good clinical care. These patient-physician relationships ultimately impact clinical outcomes.”
Neuro Oncology Clinic Has New Location with Seamless Access to Care and Clinical Trials
Bringing together the expertise of surgeons, oncologists, and radiation oncologists, the multidisciplinary Neuro Oncology Clinic located in the new Cancer Care Outpatient Building (CCOB) at UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center provides a one-stop shop for patients, says Michael Youssef, M.D., Assistant Professor of Neurology and Internal Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Prior to the move to the new location, patients visited several buildings to see all of their neuro oncology providers.
The new location also has a dedicated floor for clinical trials, which Dr. Youssef says is helpful in considering patients for any relevant studies when they are newly diagnosed. He points to the global trial evaluating therapies for glioblastoma known as GBM AGILE, which has historically struggled to enroll patients at the time of diagnosis.
Toral Patel, M.D., Director of UT Southwestern’s Brain Tumor Program, echoes Dr. Youssef’s enthusiasm about the new level of access to clinical trials and emphasis on patient care. “I think the biggest benefit of having brain tumor patients seen at UT Southwestern is that they can receive care from various subspecialists and access to clinical trials in the same location,” she says. “It is a truly patient-centric approach.”
Toral Patel, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery and Director of the Brain Tumor Program at UT Southwestern. She is a member of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and Simmons Cancer Center, where she is part of the Experimental Therapeutics Research Program.