Wade Thorstad, MD combines knowledge with his passion for helping his patients in working as a radiation oncologist and nuclear medicine specialist. He concentrates on the treatment of cancers of the thorax, head and neck, and GI tract, and is especially interested in systemic radiotherapy, radioimmunotherapy, radioimmunodiagnosis, nuclear oncology, and PET.
|Dr. Thorstad and family
Dr. Thortstad is assistant professor, radiation oncology and chief of Head and Neck Cancer Service. He treats patients at the Siteman Cancer Center, 4921 Parkview Place, Lower Level.
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What happened in the course of schooling to make you choose your specialty?
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There were a series of events on the path to choosing my specialty. In college, I was interested in Physics and majored in Biophysics because to me, the most interesting application of physics is to human life. In medical school I became interested in cancer and realized that while many diseases are only managed, cancer may be cured.
A family member then developed cancer and part of the treatment was with radiation. The combination of applied physics, technology, and a powerful and effective modality to treat cancer was very attractive.
What brought you to Washington University?
I did a second residency in Nuclear Medicine after Radiation Oncology. Washington University is one of the few places in the country that has world class departments in both Radiation Oncology and Nuclear Medicine.
Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?
Washington University is one of a handful of institutions that has pioneered a new type of radiation planning and delivery called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). I specialize in head and neck cancers which are particularly devastating because basic functions such as talking, breathing, seeing, and swallowing can be affected by the cancer and its treatment. IMRT allows us to better target tumors while at the same time reduce radiation exposure to normal tissue.
Our initial results with this new technology are encouraging.
At the same time, the head and neck surgeons I work closely with have been pioneering endoscopic laser microsurgery. This technique reverses the approach of starting on the outside and cutting in with starting on the inside and cutting out. This technique is less invasive, and functional results appear better. Our patients are starting to benefit from a combination of less invasive, less morbid surgery combined with precisely targeted and less toxic radiation therapy. Washington University is in a unique position to push this envelope with institutional clinical trials.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Austin, Texas. I went to college in San Antonio and medical school in Houston. The hill country in Austin and San Antonio is similar to the Ozark mountain area of Missouri. I miss the warm winters in Texas, but appreciate four distinct seasons in Missouri.
Which particular award or achievement is the most gratifying to you?
I elected to train in Nuclear Medicine after Radiation Oncology because advances in molecular imaging should allow us to incorporate new biological targets with anatomic targets that represent the current standard. Training allows one to learn the limitations as well as possibilities of a particular specialty.
It is somewhat ironic to me that the radiation oncology community appears almost over-enthusiastic about incorporation of molecular imaging at the present time. Important progress will be made, but setbacks also await us, and misuse of imaging technology could decrease the effectiveness of our therapy. I should point out at this time that I am an optimist, however.
What do you do when you are not working?
I enjoy spending time with my family and now one and a half year old son. I also like to windsurf, sail, snow ski, water ski, and kayak.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin. “Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.”
What lifestyle change could most benefit our health?
Cancer is the number two killer behind heart disease. Most of the cancers I see are tobacco related. Smoking cessation is key. It would be good for this country and the world.