This hematology/oncology specialist treats cancer patients and performs clinical research.
When Dr. Milton W. Seiler, Jr., was in medical school, he had a front seat to one of cancer care’s most exciting developments. “During my second year in medical school, the results of using multiple drugs to cure Hodgkin’s lymphoma were announced,” he says. “It was the first time ever that cancer was cured using multiple therapies.” Dr. Seiler was immediately drawn to the prospect of curing cancer, and he decided to specialize in hematology and oncology. “This seemed like a transition, and that a cancer cure was imminent,” he says.
Though a complete cancer cure wasn’t in the cards back then, Dr. Seiler continues to seek it. In his cancer-care practice at Crescent City Physicians, he primarily sees breast cancer patients, and he also performs clinical breast cancer research. “Every patient comes in with a family and a history,” he says. “I like to respect that, and I know that this is not an individual disease or catastrophe; this is a family problem. Everyone in the family needs to be involved in getting informed about it.”
Patients work with a care team that can include physicians, nurses, social workers and psychiatrists to get the support they need. “Everyone is involved to improve length and quality of life, and provide a cure if possible,” Dr. Seiler says.
When a cure isn’t possible, he helps patients make the difficult decision of whether or not to continue treatment. “If the prognosis is poor, and the chances of benefit are slim, is it reasonable to ask the patient to put up with the side effects of chemotherapy?” he says. “It’s always a hard call. When patients you’ve been taking care of for years reach that point, it’s never easy to say goodbye.”
This challenging experience fuels Dr. Seiler’s clinical research, where he works to eliminate cancer altogether. “Now, even more intimate and important changes are being described and are affected,” he says. One of these advances is the development of “molecule-based therapeutics,” he explains. “We’ve identified the changes in the genome that direct cancers, or cancer cells, to proliferate. Patients are often able to benefit from that information.”
For example, a type of breast cancer that was formerly one of the deadliest is now one of the easiest to treat — thanks to the identification of a key protein called HER2/neu. “That protein predicts for a very rapid recurrence of cancer,” Dr. Seiler says. “It used to be the most difficult cancer to treat. Now, there are three drugs available to take care of it.” Between 20-23 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a HER2/neu mutation.
Dr. Seiler and his partners are currently tackling another aggressive type of breast cancer. “In our practice, we’re doing early clinical work on what’s called ‘triple negative’ breast cancer,” he says. “Patients have no estrogen or progesterone receptors and no HER2/neu receptors. They have very aggressive cancer, and not as good a prognosis.” The team has identified a protein to target, and is working with a molecule-manufacturing company to develop a treatment. “We don’t have any results, but this is the kind of thing that leads to more innovation,” he says.
In addition, Dr. Seiler and his colleagues work with hematologists and oncologists at other local hospitals to identify patients who can enroll in cancer studies. “We have a very large cooperative cancer network in the city of New Orleans,” he says.
Milton W. Seiler, Jr., M.D.
Crescent City Physicians
1401 Foucher St.
3712 MacArthur Blvd.
MEDICAL SCHOOL: Louisiana State University School of Medicine
RESIDENCY: Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Internal Medicine
FELLOWSHIP: Baylor College of Medicine, Medical Oncology; Ochsner Foundation Hospital, Medical Oncology
BOARD CERTIFICATIONS: Internal Medicine, Hematology, Oncology