An Inside Look
Expert Advice for Cancer Treatment
By Janette Calabro
Dr. Timothy Dorius is very optimistic about cancer treatments. As an oncologist with Oncology Associates, he dives into the newest research and helps patients navigate the system for treatment options. After diagnosis, when life feels upside down, that’s when Dr. Dorius and his team of nurses step up to help.
“Our job as oncologists is to help people navigate the various treatment options available to them,” says Dr. Dorius. “A patient with stage one breast cancer is going to have different needs than a patient with stage four breast cancer.” Treatments can include a complicated combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. “I help people understand what their options are and guide them through their treatment decisions.”
When it’s time to actually plan for treatment, Oncology Associates follow the national guidelines and all the available evidence, says Dr. Dorius. “Most oncologists know what chemo to give and what guidelines to follow,” he notes, “but I think the kind of supportive care that people receive is crucial. That’s where we stand out as a practice. We have a really great nursing staff to take care of our patients. We’re always available, on call if needed. Our patients have easy access to both oncologists and nurses to help navigate the whole cancer experience and diagnosis.”
Dr. Dorius didn’t plan to be an oncologist, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He started his career in international economics, traveling to Brazil and trying to figure out why some countries prospered and others didn’t. “I was sitting at my desk one day,” he recalls, “and it dawned on me that I wanted to get into medicine.” He was fortunate to be trained by some of the best, including working alongside one of the world’s leading oncologists.
Now, Dr. Dorius is pleased to be working in oncology during a time of such great innovation in cancer treatment. “Immunotherapy is definitely the most exciting thing that’s happened in oncology in the last seven or eight years,” he says. “It has changed the game for several cancers. The survival rate we can expect from patients with advanced lung cancer is much better than it used to be.” Immunotherapy is used to treat several cancers, including melanoma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, some colon cancers, and, most recently, breast cancer—even in patients with the worst prognoses.
Before recommending immunotherapy, Dr. Dorius gets as much information as possible about the pathology of the tumor. Certain markers suggest that immunotherapy might be the best treatment option; special testing is done to identify these markers. The principle of this type of therapy started over a century ago, Dr. Dorius says, when a doctor tried to infect cancer with bacteria, hoping the immune system would attack the cancer along with the bacteria. Today, the results are driven by the biology of the cancer, and immunotherapy helps double life expectancy.
How does it work? Immunotherapy is an IV infusion (commonly seen on commercials for Keytruda, Opdivo, and others) that is administered every two to six weeks for one or two years. These infusions gear up the immune system to help it recognize that the cancer is foreign and, therefore, should be attacked. “It takes the brakes off the immune system and allows it to get to work fighting the cancer,” says Dr. Dorius. “It’s like it removes the blindfold from the immune system.” Though it is less predictable than some other cancer treatments, immunotherapy is also less risky and causes fewer side effects.
Immunotherapy is constantly improving. Targeted therapies are advancing in treatment options, too, and mutations can be treated with oral medications rather than with traditional chemotherapy. “Medicine changes rapidly, and I’m always ready to learn the latest treatments and the newest research,” says Dr. Dorius. “So many factors go into cancer. Environment and genetics—it’s hard to predict. The interesting thing about cancer is that it’s still a mystery.”
Dr. Dorius feels honored to help people who are going through the toughest time of their lives, even if the outcome isn’t what everyone hopes. “It’s rewarding to work with people who have incurable cancer, helping them through something that is terribly painful but seeing the beauty that can come from the relationship they have with their families and the support they get from their friends,” Dr. Dorius concludes. “We’re all in this together. It’s humbling to see the appreciation that patients have for the care they get.”
Get the cancer care you deserve! You can reach Dr. Timothy Dorius and the whole Oncology Associates team online at oa-pc.com or by phone at 402-354-5860. Oncology Associates has offices at the Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center and West Dodge Medical Plaza, in Omaha, as well as an outreach clinic in Blair.
Dr. Timothy Dorius M.D.