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Head and Neck Surgeons Take Their Capabilities to the Neal Cancer Center

The Houston Methodist Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center officially opened in late 2021, the result of a $25 million philanthropic donation from the Houston couple to expand the hospital system’s cancer center. Houston Methodist Hospital is ranked a top hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for Cancer.
The generosity of the Neal family bolsters ongoing research in oncology, led by center director Jenny Chang, MD, who is known for her breakthroughs in cancer therapy with novel targeted treatments for solid-organ cancers. Head and neck surgeons from the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery provide a gamut of surgical and non-surgical treatments for this wide-ranging collection of cancers. These conditions include both benign and malignant disease of the thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, mouth, lips, throat, nose, sinuses, ears, salivary glands, facial skin, neck, larynx, pharynx and upper esophagus. This discipline serves as a fellowship-trained sub-specialization of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ENT).
Nadia Mohyuddin, MD, and Joshua Kain, MD, soon will be joined by Laura Kim, MD, as the trio of head and neck of surgeons who offer advanced treatment and personalized care for head and neck cancer patients. These specialists use a team-based approach to diagnose and treat head and neck cancers from the top of the scalp to the base of the neck including skin cancers, mouth cancers, throat cancers, thyroid cancers, and tumors of the skull base. Cancer removal is often coordinated with reconstructive surgery of the head and neck in the same operative setting. This work involves close partnership and collaboration with a host of clinical teams from the cancer center including those from the disciplines of Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology, Thoracic Surgery, Neurosurgery, Oral Surgery, Ophthalmology, and Plastic Surgery. This also includes a well-rounded complement of rehabilitation providers from Speech & Language Pathology, Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. This multi-disciplinary approach allows for coordinated and personalized care that improves both cancer outcomes and patient experience through treatment. “It is probably one of the most debilitating cancers a patient can be diagnosed with,” said Mohyuddin. Kain, who joined Houston Methodist in 2021, has brought new robotic surgery techniques to the department and offers expertise in an innovative new realm of oncologic care called Trans Oral Robotic Surgery, or TORS. This minimally invasive surgical option particularly benefits younger patients affected with oropharynx (throat) cancers related to the human papilloma virus (HPV). “We are really fortunate as a team to offer head and neck cancer care in an age where technology and treatment advances lend to better outcomes and less side effects for those who need these important treatments. Surgeries that required a week in the hospital as recent as 10 years ago now can mean recoveries within days,” said Kain. The addition of Kim will bring additional expertise in reconstructive surgery with her fellowship training in head and neck surgical oncology and plastic reconstructive surgery. Her years of training with head and neck cancer surgery will complement Mohyuddin’s and Kain’s practices providing further depth to the treatment offerings for patients. Single-stage functional reconstruction after cancer removal is a goal of the team’s care. Through combined surgical approaches, Mohyuddin, Kain and Kim are able to provide simultaneous oncologic removal of cancers with advanced reconstructive procedures. This includes microvascular surgery, which involves the transplantation of tissues from elsewhere in a person’s body for reconstruction of vital head and neck structures such as nerve, vessels, soft tissues and bone. For more localized tumors of the facial skin and soft tissues, reconstruction can be accomplished with utilizing nearby tissue transfer techniques. For these types of reconstruction, the team will turn to their own facial plastic surgery colleagues, Drs. Anthony Brissett and Fred Bressler. This level of multidisciplinary care ensures that patients will have the best possible functional and cosmetic outcome from major tumor removal surgery. The multi-disciplinary care offered for head and neck cancer through the cancer center hinges on the Head and Neck Tumor Board, led by Mohyuddin. This twice-monthly convening board includes members from Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Radiation Oncology, Surgical Oncology, Medical Oncology, Neuro-Radiology, Surgical Pathology and rehabilitative providers. Patients received individualized treatment plans from the combined expertise of this broad collection of specialists that then translate into coordinated oncologic care. This important collaboration also lends to clinical trial offerings and enrollment for patients afflicted with head and neck cancer. Mohyuddin and Kain also hold regulatory positions in the cancer center focused on clinical trial review and approval across disciplines to remain on the forefront of new therapeutics for head and neck cancer treatment. As head and neck oncology care continues to evolve, Houston Methodist’s multi-disciplinary providers remain on the leading edge of cancer care through ongoing research and involvement in clinical trials, patient-outcomes, quality-improvement and novel laboratory-based studies. As the Specialty Head & Neck Cancer Clinic team at Houston Methodist continues to expand, its members look forward to ongoing growth and collaboration within the Neal Cancer Center.