An MD Anderson physician and a longtime MD Anderson volunteer recently received honors from the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation for outstanding service to patients who face this rare cancer of the bile ducts.
Milind Javle, M.D., professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, is the 2020 recipient of the Mark R. Clements Award for Vision, Innovation and Collaboration. The award pays tribute to Javle's work to advance patient therapies and to his collaboration with physician-scientists everywhere. In addition, the foundation honored Patty Maxin of Houston, director of the organization’s CholangioConnect patient support program, with the Mark R. Clements Award for Excellence in Volunteerism.
The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation announced the awards during its annual conference, held virtually in July because of the coronavirus pandemic. Speakers praised Javle as a visionary leader and Maxin as a “standard bearer” for patients around the world.
Javle says he feels honored and humbled, especially since the award is in memory of a patient whose bravery inspired the foundation and its accomplishments.
“This award is an important recognition of our team’s effort in advancing the standard of care against this disease,” says Javle.
“Dr. Javle is a gem,” says Dan Blum, chair-elect of MD Anderson’s Advance Team advisory board and a Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation board member. In 2016, Blum's father, Melvyn, established the Linda A. Blum Fund for Cholangiocarcinoma Research at MD Anderson, which has provided important support to Javle’s research team.
“Dr. Javle is the warrior whom all of us who’ve been affected by cholangiocarcinoma need in our corner,” says Blum.
Fewer than 15,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with cancers of the biliary ducts, which transport bile from the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine. Because of MD Anderson’s expertise and advancements in cholangiocarcinoma, about 400 patients each year seek care at the institution.
Until about 10 years ago, Javle says, therapies for cholangiocarcinoma were not very effective, and there were few clinical trials testing new approaches to patient care. The picture has changed dramatically, thanks in large part to innovation at MD Anderson.
Donor support has been key to advancing the standard of care, Javle says. In addition to the Blums, Maxin and her late husband, Mike Lu, established the Mike Lu Cholangiocarcinoma Fund after Mike was diagnosed with the disease that later took his life. These families and others touched by the rare cancer enabled laboratory and clinical studies that established MD Anderson as a recognized center for cholangiocarcinoma care, Javle says.
“MD Anderson offers unparalleled expertise in these areas,” he says. “I am proud to say that our program offers a wide portfolio of promising clinical trials for cholangiocarcinoma patients.”
Maxin volunteered for MD Anderson for years and began outreach to patients with cholangiocarcinoma when Lu was diagnosed with the disease. Through CholangioConnect, Maxin and other volunteers help patients and families find treatment information, support groups and other resources.
“When patients travel to Houston from other areas, Maxin provides connections and friendship as they navigate an unfamiliar city and cope with a frightening illness. Many times, she sits with patients during their outpatient therapy sessions.
“I have formed forever friendships,” she says. “It has been a beautiful thing. Who would think facing this disease would turn into something like this?”
Maxin says she is grateful for the award and for the progress MD Anderson has made in treating cholangiocarcinoma.
“It is a totally different world now. There is so much more hope.”