Physician profile: Todd Crocenzi, M.D.
Todd Crocenzi, M.D.
Director, Gastrointestinal Oncology Research
Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute
Providence Cancer Center
Why did you choose to specialize in gastrointestinal oncology?
The gastrointestinal tract's complexity requires a mastery of anatomy and physiology as well as diagnostic skills. The challenge of managing cancers of this body system calls out to me.
What therapies do you find most promising?
The most exciting area of emerging cancer therapeutics is immunotherapy - harnessing the power of the body's own immune system to treat cancer.
How close are we to finding a vaccine for colon cancer?
I think we'll see immunotherapies such as vaccines or other immunotherapy methods to treat advanced colon cancer within the next five years. Whether we can prevent colon cancer altogether through vaccines remains an elusive target, but I still think it's achievable.
You've compared the process of cancer research to rock climbing. How so?
It's the concept of incremental steps or gains to achieve a goal, working with partners who provide bidirectional assistance, using critical thinking and problem solving, and purposefully redirecting an approach through observations.
If you could change places with someone for a day, who would it be?
I saw a TV show on the elephant orphans project of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. I'd like to work as a keeper (sort of a caregiver) in the project. The program strives to reintroduce orphaned elephants to the wild and to a family structure that was taken from them. It struck me as an unassuming program with a simple and noble goal that shows respect to a wondrous animal.
If you weren't a doctor, what would you be?
I think I would be an anthropologist or an archeologist. I've always been fascinated with history and how civilizations rise and fall. The healing arts and medicine often play a critical role in the course of the human condition throughout the world, and have for centuries.
A perfect day is …
One in which I have an opportunity to make a difference, make something better for someone, build something while still having time for restoration and mindfulness. My wife, who is a physician as well, shares this idea of a perfect day and we strengthen each other as a result.
How does philanthropic giving help?
Three years ago a patient of mine traveled from California to participate in a clinical trial at our center. The study investigated whether a colon cancer vaccine, administered after surgical removal of colon cancer that had spread to the liver, would improve patients' odds of survival. My patient recently checked in with me. He's three-and-a-half years cancer-free.
This study was made possible through donor-supported projects within Providence Cancer Center. Not only may it have helped my patient, but by allowing us to collaborate with such institutions as Duke University it also raised our level of expertise.