Gator grad Thomas George, M.D., is dedicated to finding new treatments for GI cancer patients
By the time most gastrointestinal cancers are diagnosed, the clock is already ticking. There are few telltale signs of gastrointestinal cancer; the symptoms, when present, tend to feel like everyday problems such as a stomachache or diarrhea. Because of this, the disease is often diagnosed after the cancer has advanced.
“One of our biggest challenges is being able to come up with strategies to reverse the clock and get our arms around the cancer, recognizing sometimes that it has already spread and is more advanced,” said Thomas George, M.D., the medical director of the gastroenterology oncology program within the UF Health Cancer Center and an associate professor of medicine in the UF College of Medicine.
This challenge, to find new and better ways to treat a dangerous, advanced disease, is just one of the reasons George decided to focus his clinical and scientific energies on gastrointestinal cancers. Since entering medical school at the University of Florida, George has been committed to using his scientific skills and training to make people’s lives better.
“Oncology was the natural next step,” he said. “There is tremendous opportunity for scientific discovery to blend with being able to help patients. I also experienced cancer in my own family, and seeing the impact of it made it important to me to make sure there was always something that could be done.
“Also, colorectal and pancreas cancers were things I had personal experience with, so I felt a deep commitment to working in those areas.”
George’s main passion is providing patients with new treatments, particularly in cases where there are few other therapeutic options. Trying experimental therapies helps current patients receive potentially beneficial treatments that aren’t on the market yet, and also helps future patients, who will benefit from the research collected during the clinical trial.
In addition to his research and caring for patients, George also serves as the director of the fellowship training program in gastrointestinal oncology. It’s a fitting role considering not only his commitment to educating the next generation of physicians, but also the fact that he completed all the steps of his education at UF, from his undergraduate years and medical school to his own residency and fellowship.
“I didn’t intend that to be the case, but at every step of my education, the next best opportunity was at UF,” he said. “To some degree, that helped me advance faster. I did not have major transitions so I could focus my education on the things that needed to be focused on.”