Interview With Sarcoma Specialist Dr. Rajiv Rajani

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Today we were fortunate enough to learn more about Dr. Rajiv Rajani. Dr. Rajani is Assistant Professor/Clinical Oncology at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. His clinical interests include osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, benign bone tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, benign soft tissue tumors and metastatic disease of the appendicular skeleton.

Eric D. Davis Sarcoma Foundation (EDDF): Tell us about yourself professionally (education, employment, etc)

Dr. Rajiv Rajani (RR): I attended the University of Michigan for undergraduate and medical school followed by Orthopaedic surgery training at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. After that, I attend the University of Florida – Gainesville for sub-specialty training in Orthopaedic Oncology. After that, I moved to San Antonio, Texas as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

EDDF: Why did you decide to focus on sarcoma?

RR: Patients with sarcomas present unique opportunities and challenges from a surgical standpoint. I have a strong desire for safe, carefully planned surgery focused on limb salvage if possible. The coordination of medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology, and radiology with my profession make this a unique field with fulfilling relationships.

EDDF: What is new in sarcoma research?

RR: Sarcoma research is in constant evolution. From a surgical standpoint, research is focused on the development of prostheses that provide long-term reliable outcomes. In medical oncology, the focus is on molecular targeting with chemotherapy while in radiation oncology, yttrium and proton bean methodologies are gaining interest.

EDDF: Tell us about the work you are doing for sarcoma patients in Texas?

RR: I see the majority of patients from south Texas that have sarcomas of the extremity. This includes both bone and soft tissue sarcomas. I employ a variety of treatment modalities in surgical resection including rotationplasty for pediatric patients.

EDDF: Why are you active in social media?

RR: As our patients are well informed, as physicians, we should also be well informed. Our patients know more and more about their own diseases and bodies such that in order to provide optimal care for them, as physicians we must be well versed in the information on the internet just as much as in the journals. Additionally, social media allows an opportunity to directly interact with our community both intellectually and directly.

EDDF: Do you think it is important for a sarcoma patient to be treated by a sarcoma specialist?

RR: Absolutely. These are very rare cancers that can be easily mishandled on multiple ends. This includes by the surgeon, the pathologist, the radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist. It is a team effort and should always be treated as such.

EDDF: What is a common misconception about sarcoma?

RR: A common misconception is that being diagnosed with a sarcoma is akin to a death sentence. Simply put, it is not. Many patients lead active, fruitful lives years after diagnosis.

EDDF: From your perspective as a professional, what are some of the best ways friends and family can support sarcoma patients and caregivers?

RR: For friends and family, understand that there is no predictable way a person can take the news of a diagnosis nor is there any predictable way to say how they will respond to treatment. Allow the patient the opportunity to say how they feel and instead of providing advice, let them tell you what they are looking for.

EDDF: Why (if so) do you think it is important for people to volunteer or donate money to raise funds to support sarcoma research?

RR: Although these are rare cancers, the data that can be obtained from providing a cure could potentially be extrapolated to other malignancies including breast, lung, and colon cancers. Government research funding is focused on these common cancers and is it extremely difficult to receive government (NIH) funding for these projects. Therefore private donations and fundraising is paramount to developing appropriate treatments.

EDDF: Is there anything else you would like to add?

RR: It is my pleasure to treat patients with sarcomas and other bone and soft tissue tumors.

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