Texas Oncology-Houston Memorial City – Best Of Winner

By Meredith Knight

Dr. Michelina Cairo admits she didn’t choose oncology. It chose her. “Initially I thought I’d be a surgeon,” she said. “But in my third year of medical school, I had a breast cancer patient on my first
rotation. She had children who weren’t much younger than me. She had a lot of complex needs, and I was the one who’d run her tests to radiology.”

One of Michelina’s supervising doctors pulled her aside and said, “I’ve been reading your notes. I think you should be an oncologist.” Michelina went on to complete other rotations, of course, but none of them engaged her like her time in oncology. Recently, she had a chance to tell that doctor how much his words had meant to her, and how they changed the course of her life.

His words also changed the lives of patients, as Dr. Cairo has participated in numerous cancer studies and trials. She has been at the forefront of what is nothing short of a revolution in cancer treatment—and success. “I was in training when Herceptin burst on the scene,” Dr. Cairo said. “There hadn’t been a targeted treatment for Her2 positive breast cancer. Herceptin changed everything. From Herceptin onward, every couple years—and now every few months—we’re taking giant leaps forward in cancer care. I’ve been honored and trilled to be part of it, not only from the practice side but in research and clinical trials.”

At Texas Oncology, Dr. Cairo is one of 490 physicians undertaking more than 150 clinical cancer trials with almost 2,000 patients in 53 Texas Oncology locations enrolled annually. Their clinical trials have led to the approval of more than 100 FDA-approved cancer drugs. “The US Oncology Network allows us to provide leading-edge clinical trials with a large patient base while being decentralized,” Dr. Cairo said. “And it allows our patients access to the latest
cancer-fighting treatment.”

Beginning with her fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Cairo has been empowered to tailor her studies to dive deep into cancer research. Some of the treatments she researched became the standard of care, particularly for basal cell carcinoma. “Even our failures are successes because they can direct the research where it will help patients,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to enroll patients in some of the first clinical trials of their kind and work with them from start to industry-changing finish. The successes we’ve seen are what give us the energy to start now on something for which we may not see results for ten years.”

While Dr. Cairo concentrates her clinical trials on treatment of breast cancer, she works with colleagues pioneering care for gastrointestinal, genitourinary and lung cancers. “We all have a deep respect for the oncologists and scientists who put together the basic science and technology that makes these dynamic advancements possible today. I’ve witnessed phenomenal advancements and feel optimistic about the future of cancer treatment.”


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