Dual specialty, passion for care
Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center radiation oncologist has background in internal medicine
By Debra Gelbart
Shervin “Sean” Shirvani, M.D., M.P.H., is a radiation oncologist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, who provides care at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale as part of the cancer center’s recent expansion. He knows that his background as an internal medicine physician helps him understand how important it is to primary care physicians that their cancer patients receive optimal care from specialists.
“Primary care physicians can consider me a portal to excellent multidisciplinary care that carefully abides by the standards of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center,” Dr. Shirvani says.
Finding better outcomes
“I make sure that a patient referred to me has received all necessary diagnostic and staging studies to properly characterize their disease and that all relevant specialists are involved before any treatment begins. That way, there are no burned bridges or lost opportunities for cure. We know that this approach results in better outcomes and higher levels of safety.” In fact, he adds, studies show that “when you use an up-front multidisciplinary approach, the patient’s survival rate can double when compared to a sequential approach of seeing multiple specialists.”
Dr. Shirvani is a graduate of Duke University School of Medicine who began his medical career as a primary care hospitalist at Stanford Medical Center and San Mateo Medical Center in California. He became interested in radiation oncology as he cared for patients with cancer. He has an undergraduate degree in physics and he realized “that radiation oncology combines all of the things I like about taking care of patients in internal medicine with cutting-edge technology that draws on my knowledge of physics.”
Dr. Shirvani completed his radiation oncology residency at MD Anderson and is double board-certified in internal medicine and radiation oncology. His research while he was in Houston focused on early-stage lung, breast and prostate cancers. He has published more than a dozen manuscripts in top journals, including JAMA. He has also authored several book chapters on lung cancer.
He has been at Banner MD Anderson since the beginning of 2014; he came here from Houston because his extended family lives here.
At Banner MD Anderson, he is currently studying large population databases to compare the effectiveness of various treatment options for early-stage lung cancer, including conventional surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, proton beam therapy and radiofrequency ablation. “There’s not a lot of will to enroll patients in randomized clinical trials for lung cancer,” Dr. Shirvani says. “Some physicians are uncomfortable with randomization because of strong opinions regarding which treatment is best.”
Already, he adds, the research has yielded interesting findings. “If we adjust for patient and tumor factors, we find that stereotactic radiosurgery and surgery can yield equivalent outcomes for some groups of patients. This is important because a stereotactic approach is non-invasive and ambulatory and allows patients to forego the complications of surgery and general anesthesia. However, it is very important to select patients carefully for this procedure since some are still better served with an aggressive surgery.”
Dr. Shirvani looks forward to caring for patients here and wants referring physicians to know that he is “happy to draw on my internal medicine background to help manage patients’ complicated medical issues such as diabetes or thyroid disease during the course of their oncology treatment as long as I have the referring physician’s blessing to do so.”