Celilo Physician Published in Prestigious Medical Journal

The title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that won’t make the article that Keith Stelzer, M.D., Ph.D.,co-authored and the medical industry’s most prestigious journal recently published any less memorable.

“Radiation plus Procarbazine, CCNU, and Vincristine in Low-Grade Glioma” reports the results of a study conducted by a nationwide group of researchers, including Dr. Stelzer, exploring the effectiveness of a new method of treating a particular tumor called a glioma. The article appeared in the April 7, 2016, edition of “The New England Journal of Medicine,” the most widely read and cited medical journal.

Dr. Stelzer spent the first part of his medical career heavily involved in research while on the faculty of the University of Washington, and he has continued to be involved in a variety of studies while directing the radiation oncology department of Celilo Cancer Center. He has authored several articles for other medical journals, but this is the first time his name has appeared on the pages of the NEJM.

“This particular paper’s importance to me is that it represents something with potentially far-reaching impact in the care of patients,something that tends to be a fairly rare event over an individual’s career studying cancer therapies,” Dr. Stelzer says.

This study actually began in the late 1990s, when Dr. Stelzer was still at the University of Washington and also chaired the Brain Tumor Committee for the Southwest Oncology Group. Its goal was to attempt to determine if the addition of a chemotherapy regimen (called PCV) to radiation treatment could improve survival rates when compared to radiation therapy alone for patients with low-grade gliomas, a type of tumor that originates from cells in the brain.

The researchers did find their method improved survival rates; however, Dr. Stelzer says, while the study was taking place a new drug, called temozolomide, was introduced in the care of glioma patients that may be equally effective.

“This illustrates some of the difficulties with cancer research, particularly when studying tumor types like gliomas that are less common,” he says. “It can take a long time to enroll enough patients to be able to detect statistically meaningful results. As a result, newer methods of treatment can come along, and physician practice patterns can change.”

Dr. Stelzer says the publishing of this study’s results will mean cancer physicians will have to decide between two proven effective methods of treating gliomas.

“Nobody knows for certain whether patients with low-grade gliomas should receive PCV or temozolomide,” he says.“But my guess is most will receive temozolomide because it is easier to deliver and well tolerated by patients.