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Talks with Docs: Marshall Baker, MD, MBA

Read Time: 3 minutes

Video transcript

I would say that if you go around the country and look at the number of centers that have this setup in the same way, you're talking about less than six, something like that. It's not a very large number of places that do this. 

Huntsman Cancer Institute presents Talks with Docs

My name is Marshall Baker. I am a hepatobiliary surgical oncologist, which means I specialize in pancreas and liver tumors, pancreas and liver cancers. I'm also the surgical director of the research program in liver oncology. 

What is complex foregut oncology?

Complex foregut oncology is, you know, cancers in the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, first part of the small intestine. It's what I would describe as an anatomically tight part of the body. There are a lot of crucial structures that are kind of in and around those organs that make it technically a little bit more difficult than probably other things that we do in surgical oncology. 

How has the treatment of these cancers improved since your training days?

It's changed a lot. I think the biggest couple of general areas that we've seen things change is I feel like in the outcomes from the operations that we do. So, over the course of my lifetime, the operations have, I think, grown in complexity. But the outcomes have gotten better. 

Some of that, I think, has to do with the field, and its growing understanding of the technical nuances of what we do. Some of it, I think, is also to do with the development of minimally invasive approaches to almost everything that we do and those have really kind of made patients' recoveries from these complex operations totally different than it was when I was in training growing up. They just tend to do so much better when you can kind of keep the incisions small and get the cancers out. 

What is the Liver Transplant Oncology Program?

The [Liver] Transplant Oncology Program is really one that is a collaboration between University of Utah transplant surgery and the Huntsman Cancer Institute surgical oncology and medical oncology groups. So, it's meant to help identify patients that would benefit from liver transplant that have cancers of different types. And we see mainly folks with primary liver cancer, but also patients with metastatic cancer from the colon and small intestine, other places that that we think might benefit from liver transplant. 

For the patient, I feel like you get a better discussion because the providers that would be making the decisions with the patient are all there in the same room together at the same time with the patient. So, you tend to have a much more robust conversation about what the pathology is, what the treatment course has been like to date, where we think the tumor is headed in terms of its potential to affect the rest of the patient, not just the liver. And so, I think you get a much better decision about whether or not transplant makes sense, versus surgical resection, versus more chemotherapy, or immunotherapy, versus other forms of liver-directed therapy. I would say that if you go around the country and look at the number of centers that have this set up in the same way, you're talking about less than six, something like that, it's not a very large number of places that do this. 

What makes Huntsman Cancer Institute unique?

I think the Huntsman Cancer Institute is a is a really unique, spectacular place. It's a place where patients have ease of access to world-class care. They walk in the door, it's very easy to navigate. 

There is a wide range of ancillary services that support them, and help make their trip through cancer care more comfortable, more psychologically supportive, but it's also a place that brings together world-class, surgical skill, world-class and incredibly intelligent researchers, medical oncologists, pathologists, interventional radiologists, all of whom are national, international leaders in their fields. So, you're just seeing state-of-the-art care that's innovating, as we're going through time.

Cancer touches all of us.