The thymus is a small lymph organ that lies just behind the breast plate or sternum. In those patients with Myasthenia Gravis (MG), a muscle weakness autoimmune disorder, the thymus may worsen the disease. Often the patient’s neurologists request that the organ be removed. Surgical removal of the thymus (Thymectomy) can improve the symptoms of MG and at times, induce remission of the disease. In addition, some times the thymus develops a tumor called a thymoma, which should be removed.
Often for small thymomas and for patients with MG, we can perform a thymectomy minimally invasively by video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). For large thymomas, it may be necessary to divide the breastbone, and the abnormal gland is carefully removed.
In regards to thymus cancer surgery, our surgeons and care providers work as a team in multidisciplinary collaboration as a part of the National Cancer Institute Designated UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, which employs a multidisciplinary approach, providing expert opinions from thoracic surgery, pulmonology, radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology, and medical oncology to best fight our patients’ cancers. Our patients may be eligible for UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center clinical trials that offer cutting edge and state of the art therapies. Many of these clinical trials offer “personalized medicine” where molecular defects found in the tumors undergo specific “targeted therapy”.
Our surgeons, along with researchers from the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center collaborate with JAX West, A UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center research partner. Through this innovative and ground breaking partnership, tumors are engrafted into specialized mice, creating a “co-clinical” approach that allows our scientists to safely test novel and potentially life-saving new cancer drugs, at no risk to patients.
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