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Treat Focuses on New Drug Development at Fox Chase Cancer Center

PHILADELPHIA (September 21, 1999) -- Nationally known medical oncologist Dr. Joseph Treat of Bryn Mawr, Pa., recently joined Fox Chase Cancer Center as vice chairman of medical oncology and associate medical director of the joint Fox Chase-Temple University Cancer Center.

Treat primarily sees men and women with lung cancer. But basically, Treat said, "I consider myself a specialist in the development of new anticancer drugs and drug delivery systems."

Good Housekeeping's March 1999 issue named Treat among America's Top Cancer Specialists for Women. He was also listed among the region's best medical oncologists in the May 1999 issue of Philadelphia Magazine.

The treatment approaches he is testing have shown promise in improving the chances for a number of people with lung cancer as well as patients with other types of advanced cancer. Traditionally, only small-cell (once described as "oat-cell") lung cancer was considered responsive to chemotherapy. Yet much of Treat's focus is on the treatment of the more common non-small-cell lung cancer.

Starting in 1983, when he was a medical oncology fellow at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Treat has been collaborating with Dr. Aquilar Rahman, a scientist and founder of the biotechnology firm Neopharm in Bannockburn, Ill. The focus of this partnership has been on developing more effective ways to deliver drugs to cancer cells.

One innovation being tested in clinical trials, with promising results, is the use of liposomes. These are microscopic, laboratory-crafted capsules designed to carry anticancer drugs. Essentially, Treat said, they are "fatty balls" that can carry anticancer drugs through the bloodstream to target cancer cells with less effect on normal cells.

"We were the first to test liposome-encapsulated doxorubicin," Treat pointed out. Doxorubicin is a drug widely used in chemotherapy, but its potential for causing cardiac damage has limited the doses that can be administered. The liposome system may overcome this problem.

"Liposomes alter the amount of time the drug is present in the body but may not distribute the drug to certain areas, which reduces side effects," Treat explains. "Generally the encapsulated drug stays in the body longer, increasing the opportunity for killing cancer cells.

"Yet liposomal doxorubicin doesn't go to heart tissue. Liposomal paclitaxel doesn't get into nerve tissue," he emphasizes. "Studies have already shown that liposomal paclitaxel has no neurological toxicity."

Ongoing clinical trials Treat conducts include liposome-encapsulated combinations using paclitaxel. He co-chairs an evaluation of preoperative paclitaxel and carboplatin in early-stage non-small-cell lung cancer for the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group.

Treat is also principal investigator for a trial by Sanofi in Malvern, Pa. This Phase II study for patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer uses the drugs tirapazamine, carboplatin and paclitaxel.

Based at Temple, Treat is responsible for the daily activities of the joint program with Fox Chase and is associate chief of Temple School of Medicine's medical oncology section. He sees patients at Fox Chase twice a week and at Temple the remaining weekdays.

"Joe Treat is a perfect fit for the important job of giving Temple University a world-class clinical and clinical research capability and for facilitating exciting collaborations between the Fox Chase and Temple campuses," said Dr. Louis M. Weiner, Fox Chase medical oncology chairman and chief of the Temple medical oncology section.

Treat works closely with Dr. Corey J. Langer, director of thoracic and head and neck medical oncology at Fox Chase. Langer, who was ranked among the top specialists in the March Good Housekeeping, is internationally known as a leader in medical oncology for patients with lung cancer.

Before joining Fox Chase in May, Treat had been professor of medicine and director of the thoracic oncology program at Allegheny University Hospitals since 1997. Previously, he was medical director of the center for lung cancer and related disorders at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was also an associate professor from 1991 to 1997.

In more ways than one, the move to Fox Chase and Temple represents a type of homecoming. The son of two physicians, Treat earned his M.D. at Temple in 1979. His mother, Dr. Carmen Treat, a pediatric oncologist, practiced at Fox Chase for more than 20 years.

Joseph Treat interned and served his residency in internal medicine at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. After completing a medical oncology fellowship there in 1984, he became co-director of the hospital's lymphoma and leukemia service. He was also an assistant professor of medical oncology at Georgetown from 1985 to 1988.

In 1988, he returned to Philadelphia as associate professor of medicine at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. From 1989 to 1991, he was interim clinical director of MCP's cancer center. During this period, he served on the cancer prevention and control faculty of the National Cancer Institute from 1986 to 1991.

Treat earned MCP's House Staff Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990 and the University of Pennsylvania's 1996 John Glick Prize for Teaching Excellence. He has published more than 30 original papers and is a co-author of numerous textbook chapters on the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer, mesothelioma and gastrointestinal cancers. He is also a reviewer for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the European Journal of Cancer, Annals of Internal Medicine, Cancer, Clinical Cancer Research and the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 36 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research, prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and community outreach programs.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

Media inquiries only, please contact Diana Quattrone at 215-728-7784.

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