Hollings Headlines // September 2023

Screening saved his life

a man smiles at the camera from an infusion chair

When your brother-in-law is an internationally known colon cancer researcher, you spend your adult life hearing about the importance of colon cancer screening.

That knowledge paid off for Andy Abrams. A colonoscopy caught his colon cancer. And in a remarkable twist, as his doctors did their work-up ahead of surgery, they caught another, completely unrelated cancer.

Turns out, Andy also had cancer in his lungs. But once again, he was in the right place at the right time. Hollings oncologist John Wrangle, M.D., has been treating him with immunotherapy.

Andy shares his story to spread the word about the importance of screenings.

You’ve got to talk about this stuff. It’s scariest when you treat it as if it's some evil lurking out there somewhere,” he says.

He regularly surprises people – who don't realize he has cancer – when he tells them he's headed in for treatment.

“I say, ‘Here’s what I’ve got. Here’s how they caught it, and how wonderful they were able to catch it, and how wonderful that we live in a time and age and place where they can treat it.’”

Read Andy Abrams' story

Did you know that most people should get colonoscopies beginning at age 45?

During a colonoscopy, the doctor can check for cancer and remove polyps that could one day turn into cancer.

How to schedule your colonoscopy

Cutting delays to improve care

a man in surgical scrubs and cap in an operating room

It sounds simple.

Get head and neck cancer patients into radiation therapy no more than six weeks after surgery for the best outcomes.

And yet...half of head and neck cancer patients across the country don't start radiation therapy on time. What does that mean? A greater chance that the cancer will come back.

Head and neck cancer surgeon Evan Graboyes, M.D. – who also directs our Survivorship and Cancer Outcomes Research Initiative – has an idea about how to fix this problem.

A pilot study here at Hollings of an enhanced patient navigation system that simultaneously tackles the problem at the patient, organization and system levels has gone well – and now the National Cancer Institute is funding a $3.5 million multicenter trial, led by Hollings, to test this approach.

“When we think about improving cancer outcomes, we often think, ‘What new drug can we add to radiation or surgery?’ – but it’s a super expensive drug. Or, ‘Is there a different kind of radiation, a different type of radiation technique?’ Or, ‘Let's implement this new robotic surgery,’” says radiation oncologist Bhisham Chera, M.D., who is also part of the study.

“And sitting in front of us, we know that time to radiotherapy significantly affects outcomes, and we know that that's happening in almost 40% to 50% of the patients with head and neck cancer. So this intervention, though it’s not sexy in the sense of ‘it’s a new immunotherapy; it’s a new drug,’ could be the most cost-effective thing to do.”

Read about this trial

Improving CAR-T-cell therapy

two researchers in the lab

We've written before about the incredible results that some patients with blood cancers get from CAR-T-cell therapy.

But there are a lot of side effects, too. One of the things that has to happen before the patient gets the CAR-T-cells is lymphodepleting chemotherapy – chemo to kill off existing lymphocytes, or white blood cells. CAR-T-cell therapy has been shown to work much better after this lymphodepleting chemo.

But what if we could skip that step – and the side effects that come with it?

Graduate student Megan Tennant and Hollings researcher Richard O'Neil, Ph.D., are looking at that question.

Read about this research


a group of people pose for the camera

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month – but our Community Outreach and Engagment team works year-round to increase men's awareness of their risk of prostate cancer and, most importantly, what they can do about it.

The team recently met with members of Morris Street Baptist Church (pictured above) for a session of SC AMEN. The goal of this program is to reduce prostate cancer disparities by increasing screening rates among Black men aged 40–69 in South Carolina through patient education, navigation to screening, and follow-up.

“My mission — not just my job — my mission, my passion with prostate cancer, is to ensure that all men in South Carolina have access to screening and treatment services,” says program manager Melanie Slan.

Learn more & schedule an SC AMEN session

Breast Cancer Expo

pink image of a flexing bicep with the words Hollings Survivors Fit Club Getting Fit for Life

Get ready for the second annual Breast Cancer Survivors' Wellness Expo!

Breakout activities include meditation with Katie Schmitt, DPT, breathwork with Sundar Balasubramanian, Ph.D., shoulder range of motion clinic with Katie Schmitt, DPT, and yoga with Gail Corvette.

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 at the MUSC Wellness Center, 45 Courtenay Drive.

Some breakout sessions have limited capacity; be sure to register online.

Interested in being a vendor at the expo? Indicate interest by Sept. 30.

Hollings in the news

DBusiness: Henry Ford Health joins study to improve body image among head and neck cancer survivors

US News & World Report: After COVID, a continued push for diversity in clinical trials

Urology Times: Prostate cancer survivor treated at MUSC shares his story

Coming up...

Sept. 19 - Online Breast Cancer Support Group

Join us online for a monthly support group moderated by MUSC Hollings Cancer Center providers with expertise in the psychological experience of people with breast cancer. You can participate however you feel most comfortable: video on, video off, or call in. All options are available.

The group meets on Zoom the third Tuesday of every month from noon to 1 p.m. Register to receive a link

Sept. 21 - LLS Blood Cancer Support Group

Please join us as we restart our South Carolina Virtual Blood Cancer Support Group, supported by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Meetings will occur on Zoom on the third Thursday of each month from 2-3 p.m.

Register via this link, and once registered with a valid email address and phone number, you will receive the meeting invitation and link.

For questions about this support group, please contact Hollings Cancer Center social worker Kristin Farris.

Sept. 21 - Head and Neck Cancer Survivors Support Group

Meet with other head and neck cancer patients and caregivers in a supportive environment. This group meets in a hybrid format; you may join online or in person. 

The Head and Neck Cancer Support Group meets 5:30–6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. To attend online, register on Zoom. To attend in person in room 121 of MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, RSVP to whitfis@musc.edu. 

Sept. 30 - Hobcaw Creek Blue Crab Rodeo

Go “crabbing for a cause” at the 5th Annual Hobcaw Creek Blue Crab Rodeo. This friendly crabbing competition will be held Sept. 30 at Hobcaw Creek. 100% of the proceeds will benefit the MUSC Hope Unit, the oncology unit at MUSC’s Ashley River Tower, and CAR-T-cell therapy, a dynamic treatment option for patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/hobcawcreekbcr/ 

Oct. - HCC Mobile Vaccination Unit

The HCC Mobile Vaccination Unit provides the HPV vaccine, which protects against a virus that can cause six types of cancer. Staff on the van can also provide Tdap, meningitis, polio and Hepatitis A vaccines, as well as information on cancer prevention and awareness. The van will be at these upcoming community events:

Saturday, Oct. 14

Healthy Me Healthy SC Health Fair


Saturday, Oct. 28

Felix Pinckney Community Center Resource Fair

North Charleston

Oct. - Mobile Health Unit

The Hollings mobile health unit provides mammograms, Pap smears and skin checks. Appointments are required. Please call 843-792-0878 to schedule an appointment.

Upcoming dates:

Wednesday, Oct. 4

Folly Beach Exchange Club

Folly Beach

Monday, Oct. 9

Azalea Drive Church of Christ

North Charleston

Friday, Oct. 13

Black Jack Harley-Davidson


Saturday, Oct. 14

Healthy Me Healthy SC Health Fair


Friday, Oct. 20

Dr. Ron E. McNair Community Celebration

Lake City

Tuesday, Oct. 24

Bonneau Beach Civic Club


Nov. 4 - LOWVELO

Register now to ride in LOWVELO! 100% of every participant-raised dollar goes directly to cancer research. Riders have the option of choosing one of five routes based on their desired distance – 10 miles, 20 miles, 23 miles, 50 miles, or 80 miles. We also have the virtual LOWVELO Home Team option for those who feel more comfortable logging miles on their own.

Not interested in riding? We're also looking for volunteers to help to make this great event happen!

Send us your news

Got news? We have outlets, from our news site to our video boards! We’d love to help promote your latest journal publications, grants, clinical advances, awards, events and patient stories. Please contact the Hollings communications team to share your news or if you have questions.

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Hollings publications and featured trials

Explore some of our featured trials being offered at Hollings.

Check out the latest publications from doctors and researchers at Hollings.

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