Marah Hamdan, a fourth-year medical student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Foster School of Medicine, has been recognized by two leading research organizations for her role in a study of gallbladder cancer.
Hamdan was shortlisted for a student research award for the project “Gallbladder Adenocarcinoma. The impact of tumor localization and minimally invasive surgery on survival. She is co-lead author of the research, along with Felipe B. Maegwa, MD, FACS, Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Arizona.
According to TTUHSC El Paso officials, the opportunity to lead a research project – as a student – helped her build a solid foundation for her career.
“It was an important experience – learning the process of doing meaningful research with real implications, from start to multiple submissions and ultimately being accepted,” Hamdan said. “I am delighted, as this is my first surgical research presentation at a regional conference. It is a stepping stone and I look forward to my future in the surgical field.
The Student Research Award is presented by the Southern Chapter of the American Federation of Medical Research and the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation. Hamdan presented his research at the Joint Regional Meeting of Southern Organizations, February 25-27. It took place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery (PDF download).
The gallbladder is a small organ located under the liver that helps with the digestive process. Gallbladder cancer is a rare but very fatal disease: approximately 3,700 people are diagnosed and 2,000 die from it each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is difficult to detect in its early stages, when patients have a better chance of recovery, and it appears to be more common in women, blacks, Native Americans, and Alaska Natives.
The study by Hamdan’s research group helped expand knowledge about gallbladder cancer by examining how the localization of tumors on the organ, as well as the use of minimally invasive surgery, affect rates survival rate.
Hamdan’s team analyzed six years of data from gallbladder cancer patients archived in the American College of Surgeon’s National Cancer Database. They found that when tumors appeared on the abdominal side of the organ, the disease was more likely to be diagnosed earlier, resulting in better patient outcomes. However, if a tumor grew on the liver side – or both sides – of the gallbladder, it was associated with poorer patient outcomes.
The group also looked at the use of minimally invasive surgery – such as robotic and laparoscopic surgery – on patients with gallbladder cancer in the United States from 2010 to 2016. They found that the Use of minimally invasive surgery for gallbladder cancer is increasing and appears to be helping reduce hospital admissions. times for patients whose tumors are detected early.
“It was a great lesson, both in mentoring and research,” said Hamdan, who is expected to graduate this year. His mentor for the project is Ioannis Konstantinidis, MD, Assistant Professor of Complex Surgical Oncology and General Oncology at TTUHSC El Paso.
“As the first person in my family to enter the medical field, I saw the importance of having a mentor who is genuinely interested in your success and whom I can ask questions about regarding professional and personal directions. “said Hamdan.
As knowledge about gallbladder cancer has evolved over the past decades, the team’s research adds valuable data on the prognostic importance of tumor localization in the gallbladder as well as the safety of it. minimally invasive surgery for gallbladder cancer, said Dr. Konstantinidis.
“As a faculty member, it is a pleasure and an honor to work with medical students, and I consider it very important for them to have the opportunity to present at the national level and to learn how to conduct and publish clinical research, ”Dr. Konstantinidis mentioned.
Hamdan left Saudi Arabia for the United States at the age of 14 in 2010 and considers El Paso his hometown. Now on the verge of graduating from the Foster School of Medicine, she is pursuing a residency in general surgery with the goal of becoming a colorectal surgeon. She hopes she can one day make a difference where she lives.
“There is a need for female colorectal surgeons, especially in El Paso, where I would like to serve the community,” Hamdan said.