Meet the Chief
Jennifer F. Tseng, MD, MPH
Chief, Surgical Oncology
Watch Chief of Surgical Oncology Jennifer Tseng, MD, MPH, in BIDMC's "Behind the Badge" series:
The Question I Own
Ever since she was a student at the University of California-San Francisco Medical School, Jennifer Tseng, MD, MPH, has been passionate about improving the outcomes of people with pancreatic cancer, a disease so lethal that less than three percent of patients are alive five years after diagnosis. It was then that she saw, first-hand, how devastating this disease can be, often striking down people in the prime of their lives.
"This is the question I own - how can I improve the outcomes of patients with this challenging disease?" says Tseng, Chief of the recently established Division of Surgical Oncology and Co-Director of the BIDMC Cancer Center. "It's what gets me up in the morning."
From micro to macro
Tseng, who divides her time between research and patient care, is tirelessly tackling pancreatic cancer from multiple perspectives or, as she puts it, "the entire continuum, from micro to macro."
As such, she is involved in basic, translational, and outcomes research, as well as investigations that look at pancreatic cancer and other malignancies through the larger lens of society, with a particular focus on disparities in cancer surgical care.
One of Tseng's major areas of research focuses on building models based on large amounts of data that will give doctors a web-based tool for determining the optimal treatment-sequencing strategies for individual cancer patients. The type of treatment and the sequence in which they are given "makes a big difference in pancreatic cancer," explains Tseng, especially now that therapy may involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Treatment sequencing is important in other cancers, too, so Tseng's work will have implications for many other malignancies. In addition, these models may also help predict pancreatic cancer risk and progression of the disease.
Searching for biomarkers
Another active area of Tseng's research is the search for biomarkers - molecules in blood or other bodily fluids that signal the presence or absence of disease. Biomarkers could help doctors determine whether a patient has or may be at increased risk for pancreatic cancer, or is responding to treatment.
While no biomarkers are apt to be perfect, they would likely be an important element in a wealth of other data. Tseng is thrilled to be teaming up with some "great basic scientists" at BIDMC who have identified genes associated with pancreatic cancer that may lead to the discovery of new biomarkers.
Disparities and outcomes
Tseng also has a longtime interest in deciphering why some cancer patients do not receive treatment that is consistent with established guidelines, even in some major academic medical centers. She is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to acquire data with which to expand her research in the areas of disparities and outcomes research. In the coming months she will also combine efforts with Marc Shermerhorn, MD, Vascular Surgery, and Jim Rodrigue, PhD, Transplant Surgery, to form the core of a co-located Surgical Outcomes group.
Tseng is excited to be leading the new Division of Surgical Oncology and to have the opportunity to make continued progress against "an implacable foe." She stresses that this would not be possible if not for the vision of Chief of General Surgery Mark Callery, MD, a renowned pancreatic cancer surgeon who established BIDMC as a national leader in this area. "It's a privilege to work with Dr. Callery," says Tseng, "and to have this opportunity to build the best pancreatic team in Boston together."