Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Innovative UM Physician Garners Politician’s Praise, Anonymous $1.5 Million Donation

06.22.2008

Six months after undergoing an innovative cancer treatment Florida State Senator Steven A. Geller (D-Cooper City) returned to the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center last Friday for a checkup and to sing the praises of his surgeon. Raymond J. Leveillee, M.D., chief of the Division of Endourology, Laparoscopy and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Miller School, and a member of the Prostate, Bladder and Kidney Site Disease Group at UM/Sylvester, performed a unique procedure to remove the cancerous tumor embedded deep in the Democratic leader’s left kidney.

After the checkup, Geller and Leveillee met with newspaper and television journalists to discuss the surgery, which not only eradicated the politician’s tumor but enabled him to avoid chemotherapy and radiation. The two men also revealed that an anonymous philanthropist has made a $1.5 million donation that will enable Leveillee to continue to conduct his surgical research.

“It’s miraculous,” Geller said of Leveillee’s minimally invasive operation, which was performed on an out-patient basis. “With this procedure, I was in and out on a Wednesday and back at work the following Monday!”

Leveillee is one of a handful of U.S. physicians with the expertise to burn away Geller’s malignancy, using a technique known as radio frequency ablation (RFA). RFA involves the insertion of a needle carrying electrical current to burn away cancerous masses. Temperature monitors are used to prevent damage to adjoining, healthy tissue. Dr. Leveillee describes the technique as “a marriage of technology with surgical skills, using the CT scan as an extension of my hands.”

A more conventional procedure would have hospitalized Senator Geller for a week and called for at least a month of recuperation and rehabilitation. A CT scan of Geller’s kidney taken last Friday indicated he remains cancer-free.

The lawmaker shared his experience in the hopes of reminding other South Floridians that the treatments and research at UM/Sylvester make it one of the nation’s premier cancer facilities. “People diagnosed with cancer don’t have to leave to get treatment. This procedure is right here.”

Leveillee said he’ll use the $1.5 million gift to finance additional RFA research. The donation was made prior to Geller’s surgery, and came “from a philanthropic family” whose relative benefited from the same surgical procedure. “They knew I needed start-up funds so I could set up a lab here,” Leveillee said.

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