MAWD Pathology: A Leader in Cancer Diagnostics
Physicians with patients at North Kansas City Hospital have access to pathology services that rival those at the nation’s top academic centers. Samuel Caughron, MD, president and managing partner of MAWD Pathology Group, is the only board certified molecular genetic pathologist in the Kansas City area and one of only approximately 300 in the country. “Northland physicians can have confidence that patients treated at NKCH for cancer will be diagnosed using the most current techniques and diagnostic tests available,” says Dr. Caughron.”
Molecular pathology includes the study of molecular microbiology, molecular genetics and molecular oncology, which is Dr. Caughron’s area of emphasis. “Our ability to probe what is going on within DNA and RNA of cancer cells and then match those individual cancers with the appropriate treatment is advancing by leaps and bounds. Molecular oncology is the epitome of precision and personalized medicine,” Dr. Caughron says. With MAWD’s expertise in diagnostic and follow-up testing, the overall cancer care at NKCH rivals any in the city, Caughron affirms.
“Our ability to probe what is going on within DNA and RNA of cancer cells and then match those individual cancers with the appropriate treatment is advancing by leaps and bounds."
Molecular oncology has progressed from general diagnosis to the ability to identify the specific biology of each person’s unique cancer. Specific diagnosis allows oncologists to prescribe the most effective treatment, including targeted medications, resulting in better outcomes. Among the tests MAWD conducts are BRAF mutation analysis testing to check for mutated B-Raf protein and HER2 FISH (fluorescent in situ hybridization) amplification analysis, the gold standard for breast cancer diagnosis. FISH is a cytogenetic technique that uses fluorescent probes that bind only to those parts of the chromosome with a high degree of DNA sequence complementarity. In HER2 amplification testing, the number of HER2 genes (red signals) is counted in each cell and compared to how many copies of chromosome 17 are present (green signals). The test is positive if there are too many copies of the HER2 gene.
Normal cells are displayed, each containing two copies of the
HER2 gene (red dots) and two copies of chromosome 17 (green dots).
Tumor cells with too many copies of the HER2 gene (HER2
amplification) are revealed by numerous red dots. This patient would
be eligible for treatment with a therapy that targets the HER2 gene.
After making the patient’s first-level microscopic diagnosis, MAWD consults with the surgeon and oncologist to determine when and what additional tests should be performed. Additional diagnostic and follow-up tests are ordered after considering the patient’s diagnosis and stage of cancer. A pathologist reviews all individual molecular test results.
MAWD is at the forefront of the pathology community in developing and creating appropriate testing protocols. Dr. Caughron says MAWD was following both colon and lung cancer testing protocols well before they were adopted nationally. “All the NKCH-based MAWD pathologists welcome consults and strive to be their pathology resource partner,” he says.
Samuel Caughron, MD
Dr. Caughron earned his medical degree and completed his residency at Creighton University School of Medicine. Additionally he completed a molecular genetic pathology fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.