Cures for today – and for tomorrow
A profile of children’s cancer specialist Gregory A. Yanik, M.D.
Gregory A. Yanik, M.D., actually didn't think medical school was a possibility until he ran into a friend who had taken the MCATs (the medical college admission test) and passed.
With his typical warmth and good humor, Yanik says, "I hate to say it, but I thought, well, if my friend could do it, maybe I could, too."
Today, many people are very glad Dr. Yanik took those MCATs. He has had a direct impact with two groups of critically ill patients: those undergoing a bone marrow transplant and children with neuroblastoma.
As the Leland and Elaine Blatt Family Professor of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, he has helped patients combat serious illnesses such as graft-versus-host disease, idiopathic pneumonia syndrome, acute myelogenous leukemia and the rare but deadly childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.
"Our goal is to not only find cures for the patients of today but for the patients of tomorrow," says Yanik, who is also a professor of Internal Medicine and of Pediatrics.
U-M has been leader in this field of research, having developed a tumor-specific scan called the MIBG scan in the 1980's to detect deadly neuroblastoma. MIBG scans are now used in virtually every children's hospital in the world.
Yanik's team has taken this research further, using MIBG not just as a method to diagnose neuroblastoma, but as a specific therapy for the disease. Over the past decade, U-M has treated patients from more than 32 states. And the therapy has proven so successful that it is now being considered for frontline (immediate) therapy for all patients with neuroblastoma, not just patients who have failed prior therapy.
He credits U-M's environment. "We're able to think outside the box," he says.
He notes that such thinking recently made it possible to establish a joint Pediatric/Adult Bone Marrow Transplant area to be located at the new Children's and Women's Hospital facility when it opens in late 2011.
The U-M Bone Marrow Transplant Program, headed by James Ferrara, M.D., was recently selected to be one of the Health System's new Destination Programs, and over the next two years will seek to increase the number of patients coming to U-M from long distances to receive transplants of bone marrow and peripheral stem cells.
"Our transplant program has been able to design novel research protocols to help transplant patients of all ages. It's been an incredible experience," Yanik says. "We are blessed with many good hospitals in the state of Michigan. These are all hospitals that can give high-quality care to patients when things are going well. However, there are only a few hospitals in the Midwest that can care for patients when things aren't going well, when their cancer has relapsed, or has failed other prior therapy."
"That's the Michigan difference, to be able to care for the toughest of cases, with the latest in therapy."
When not doing research or visiting patients, Yanik loves spending time with his three children and his wife Marybeth Yanik, an R.N. who recently joined the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"Great Article! Well Deserved!" Rajen Mody, Peds Oncology
"Greg Yanik is an outstanding physician. He is knowledgeble and exudes warmth and compassion for his patients. His research is innovative and bears directly on improving outcomes in patients with cancer." Laurence Boxer, Pediatrics
Inside View Editorial Advisory Group
Constance Bridges, Office of the Dean, Medical School
Teri Grieb, MSA Office of Research
Judy Hallberg, S.P.H.R., UMMS Human Resources
Kelly, UMHS Human Resources
Mark A. Kempton, UMHS Human Resources
Erin Koenigsknecht, UMHS Marketing Communications
Allison Krieger, Office of the EVPMA
Rick Krupinski, Editor, Medicine at Michigan
Alisa Morningstar, UMHS, MFit Health Promotion
Sara Stephens, Safety Management Services
Tammy Nipper, UMMS Human Resources
Juanita Parry, Nurse Recruitment & Retention
Steve Raymond, UMHHC Leadership & Staff Development
Karen Schlueter, Livonia Health Center
Connie Standiford, Medical School Administration
Carole Strong, House Officers Association
Quinta Vreede, Office of the EVPMA
Public Relations & Marketing Communications Staff
Michael Harrison, chief public relations and marketing officer
Kara Gavin, director of public relations
Beth Johnson, editor and senior writer
Geoff O'Connor, senior Web developer
Michael Steigmeyer, assistant editor
Juliet Fuller, photography coordinator
Heather Guenther, contributing writer
Cathy Mellett, contributing writer
Bruce Spiher, contributing writer