A Collaborative Approach to Sarcoma Care: Q&A with Dr. AeRang Kim

CRI Annual Report 2014

AeRang Kim, MD, PhD, leads our Sarcoma Clinic, a national leader in providing innovative, collaborative care to patients with a range of soft-tissue sarcomas. The Sarcoma Clinic exemplifies Children’s dedication to providing all the necessary care for your child under one roof. Collaboration across medical practices is in our nature, and it’s just one of the ways we elevate the care of every single one of our patients. We sat down with Dr. Kim to discuss her work with the Sarcoma Clinic.

Q. In a few words, how would you describe the Sarcoma Clinic, and what makes the Children’s Sarcoma Clinic unique in this field?

A. The Sarcoma Clinic is a mutli-disciplinary team that brings together orthopaedics, oncology, radiology, physical therapy, clinical genetics, and radiation oncology to provide comprehensive care that is individualized to each of our patients. I am one of the oncologists on the team.

The close collaboration between the members of the team is what really sets us apart. When you think about treatment for sarcomas, it’s multi-modal. Medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, and rehabilitation specialists need to work together in order to provide the most effective care. But very few hospitals actually have the collaborative teams in place to provide that level of care. As a result, patients often wind up having to jump around to different clinicians, often at different hospitals, and the care winds up being provided in separate silos. We are a truly collaborative team, and that totally changes the way we approach treatment with our patients.

Q. How exactly does this collaborative approach change the patient experience, compared to sarcoma treatment at other locations?

A. We meet twice a month. We see patients for initial consults, follow up, and many for second opinion consultations during this time.  We see a whole range of malignant and benign soft tissue  and bone sarcomas. Each patient’s case and imaging results are reviewed prior to our clinic in our sarcoma tumor board with all specialists. We then see and examine the patient together as team.  This allows all subspecialists to be working as team, making unified decisions and treatment plans. This results in a very different experience and a better quality of care for the patient. You really can’t treat sarcoma effectively without all practices involved.

Every patient has individual needs, and that’s when it becomes really advantageous to have the whole team working together. Each of us provides our own input, which leads to truly personalized care for each of our patients. That’s especially important when treating sarcomas, which are quite rare. Whenever you see something that’s rare, you need a team that is experienced.

Q. Do you think this type of collaboration is the future of sarcoma care?

A.  Yes, definitely. A few other national clinics have begun providing this type of care, and others are moving in this direction. More hospitals are developing these multi-disciplinary practices because they provide better quality care. And ultimately, patients want to go to a center that has a team of sarcoma specialists that work for them. But at this moment, we’re one of only a few hospitals actually providing this type of care.  Our subspecialists are principal investigators of national trials in sarcoma and are known leaders and innovators in this field. We are members of the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC) and the Children’s Oncology Group Developmental Therapeutics Consortium, and we have many novel trials open specific to sarcomas through these consortia and through our own institutional led studies.  This is how we stay on the cutting edge of sarcoma care.

Q. With this collaborative approach being so unique in sarcoma treatment, how do you keep your patients informed about the care you’re recommending?

A. Our clinic has a very strong education component. We’re not only dedicated to providing the best care, but also to informing patients and the medical community about effective practices and explaining why we approach care the way that we do. Prior to each clinic, we have an educational component for our staff, including residents and fellows, which consists of guest speakers from across the country and a journal club.  

Christopher's Story

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Christopher Melkonian was six years old when he came down with a low-grade fever and diffuse bone pain. Unsure of what was happening, his parents Darlene and David took him to Children’s National Health System and soon found out that Christopher had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood and bone marrow cancer that affects white blood cells.

Read More of Christopher's Story