Dr. Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa: iMDT is a precious and great channel for building relationships to learn from each other
Meet the Professor

Dr. Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa: iMDT is a precious and great channel for building relationships to learn from each other

Received: 25 July 2018; Accepted: 31 July 2018; Published: 24 August 2018.

doi: 10.21037/amj.2018.08.01

Expert’s introduction

Dr. Ghassan Abou-Alfa (Figure 1) specializes in hepatocellular cancer as a member of Memorial Sloan Kettering. He received his MD degree in American University of Beirut and served on the faculty of the Department of Medicine in Yale University School of Medicine before he joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Joan & Sanford I, Weill Medical Scholl at Cornell University in 2001. Dr. Abou-Alfa also received his MBA from Columbia University in 2016.

Figure 1 Dr. Ghassan Abou-Alfa.

Dr. Abou-Alfa’s research is dedicated to finding novel therapies and improving the effectiveness current therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, and gallbladder cancer, while continuing to understand the basic mechanisms of the disease and its therapies. Dr. Abou-Alfa has many publications in the field of hepatocellular carcinoma. He led on many occasions, international teams of investigators, and published the first report on the effective role of the novel agent sorafenib in the treatment of primary liver cancer and recently reported with colleagues from throughout the world, the positive outcome of the study he chaired on cabozantinib in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Abou-Alfa serves as the Chair of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Task Force for Hepatobiliary Cancers, and is the President-Elect for the International Society of Gastrointestinal Oncology. Dr. Abou-Alfa chairs the hepatocellular carcinoma subgroup of the Alliance cooperative group, and is a cadre member of both the gastrointestinal cancers and pharmacogenomics and population pharmacology committees. Dr. Abou-Alfa serves as the chair the medical/scientific board of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation and the Blue Faery Liver Foundation, and also serves on the National Medical Advisory Committee of the American Liver Foundation. Dr. Abou-Alfa who has lectured worldwide on the subject on gastrointestinal malignancies, is also a strong advocate for raising awareness and support for improving the outcome of patients with these diseases, and enhancing oncologic education worldwide.

Editor’s note

The multidisciplinary team (MDT) discussion has earned increasing popularity for the complex needs asking for the coordination of health and social care. In response to this complexity, relational coordination, the concept of International Multidisciplinary Team (iMDT) is put forwarded.

We had the great honor to invite Dr. Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, to have an interview with us on his experience and thoughts of clinical and academic importance of iMDT.


Educational Case Series of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and case consultation

Since 2015, Dr. Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa has launched a special column Educational Case Series of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology (http://jgo.amegroups.com/index) (Figure 2). This case series is published in the form of dialogue, which presents a lively MDT discussion.

Figure 2 Educational Case Series of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology (http://jgo.amegroups.com/index).

More than ten years ago, we have launched and established few regular conferences with other institutions to present and discuss specific medical cases to learn from. Experts from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center attend the conferences to discuss and comment on the selected cases, with the purpose of educating our fellows as well as fellows and junior faculty from other institutions. These very successful conferences had also led and helped establishing and developing new relationships among the faculty from the different institutions,” Dr. Abou-Alfa, “We discovered in no time that publishing the cases and discussions has good educational and learning value. The launch of Educational Case Series of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology (JGO) is a significant effort we are all proud of. The publication of this case series in JGO helped further the connectivity and access among our colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the institutions in China. This helped share with the world how we treat patients. This opportunity is a very precious and great channel for building relationships.

Before launching the Educational Case Series of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in JGO, we published case reports in other journals, e.g., Gastrointestinal Cancer Research (GCR)” Dr. Abou-Alfa, “we have already published more than or close to thirty cases.

Why Dr. Abou-Afla strives for this?

The vision of our Physician-In-Chief Dr. José Baselga, to help expand our understanding and care for cancer patients globally, reflect on the opportunity to discuss complex cases and provide guidance and sometimes help care for those patients. This adds to the tremendous opportunity this provides for the young faculty and fellow to learn to start writing their own manuscripts and benefit from this hands-on experience in writing. This will also ensure that our colleagues and us remain connected through the regular conferences, and help enhance further interaction and cooperation opportunities among our institutions, e.g., visiting faculty, workshops, and meetings.” Dr. Abou-Alfa said.

This also has taught us that perspectives and care methodologies may differ. We share with the world how we treat patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering, but also learn how things are done in China or other parts of the world. Case reports and case consultation are great opportunity to learn from each other. We do appreciate that things can be handled differently and appreciate what we can learn from each other.

iMDT corner

A MDT approach is considered best practice in the treatment planning and care for patients, specially for patients with cancer. At the end of 2016, a conversation between Mr. Stephen Wang, the founder of AME Publishing Company and Dr. Jianfei Shen, the physician of Taizhou Hospital of Zhejiang Province, Wenzhou Medical University was a starting point of a new program, iMDT. It is an updated version of MDT. All the discussion with experts worldwide ultimately will be expanded into a manuscript published in one of journals under AME. So far, the iMDT corner in Journal of Thoracic Disease was launched (Figure 3) and two articles featuring the iMDT case discussion have been published. For the journal’s international readership of JTD, more experts will benefit from the comprehensive and thoughtful discussion. Meanwhile, the articles are translated into Chinese, disseminated via WeChat public code, a popular social media in China. All the contents could be accessible to more Chinese doctors as well.

Figure 3 iMDT corner in Journal of Thoracic Disease (http://jtd.amegroups.com/article/view/20854/html).

What is the clinical and academic importance of the iMDT platform respectively?

Dr. Abou-Alfa, “It is a great opportunity to build and promote relationships, enhance potential cooperation for academic work, research, and patient care. This may also help develop workshops, courses, and conferences collaboratively.

No doubt that the International Multidisciplinary Consultation has a tremendous and important value. Physicians being in the US, China or anywhere else, of course are very pound and would speak up how they like to do things. It is very important for us to learn from each other to better understand how things are done. There are many other channels for us to keep track of the latest developments of medicine in China, and iMDT is one of them. It is a great warmup for other potential opportunities. This is a great introduction for potential further collaboration among physicians to care for patients, and learn from each other through collaborative conferences, courses, workshops.


We would like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Ghassan Abou-Alfa for sharing his experience and thoughts with us.


Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

(Science Editors: Grace Li, Silvia Zhou, AMJ, amj@amegroups.com)

doi: 10.21037/amj.2018.08.01
Cite this article as: Li G, Zhou S. Dr. Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa: iMDT is a precious and great channel for building relationships to learn from each other. AME Med J 2018;3:88.