As a gastroenterologist, Dr. Ryan De Lee helps to diagnose and treat patients with a variety of cancers. But he’s not the only specialist most of his patients will see from diagnosis through treatment.

“The first thing we tell a patient is, ‘There is going to be a team of people that will help get you through this.’”

Dr. De Lee and fellow physicians are members of the Oregon Cancer Alliance’s GI team, which focuses on helping patients with gastrointestinal cancers get the best care and treatment possible.

“The GI team does really specialized procedures,” says interventional radiologist Dr. Donald Garbett. “There’s very little that we don’t do. So, advanced treatments, advanced diagnosis, advanced procedures for palliative treatments—all of that is available here in the community.”

There are many types of gastrointestinal cancers. The most common include cancer of the esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas and liver. Because cancer is a very individualized disease, the GI team’s specialists work together, often discussing patient cases as a collective group in what’s known as tumor board.

“That includes radiation oncology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiology and pathology. And we create a plan tailored for that individual patient to make sure they get the right care,” says radiation oncologist Dr. Thomas Sroka.

“And we’re not just saying ‘What’s the one thing we’re going to do?’ We’re talking about the whole course—what is going to happen next and what are we going to do after that?” Dr. Garbett explains.

The OCA’s tumor boards are currently meeting virtually instead of in person due to the pandemic, but the collaboration remains an important piece of patient care.

“Cancer care and cancer cure doesn’t come from one doctor,” Dr. Sroka says. “It comes from many groups and specialties working together. And having a place where everyone can get together and hold each other accountable to what is the right treatment is really immeasurable in a patient’s success.”

Thirteen specialty clinics in Eugene-Springfield are members of the Oregon Cancer Alliance. In addition to GI cancers, the OCA teams coordinate care for patients with breast, lung, endocrine and gynecologic cancers.

“This method works,” says Dr. De Lee. “I think we all learn from it. We all become better care providers for it and our patients get the best expedited care possible.”