Q&A with Dr. Parvin Peddi

Dr. Parvin Peddi aims to expand research and clinical trials in breast cancer.

BY ROBIN HEFFLER / PHOTOGRAPHED BY SHANE O’DONNELL

In April, Parvin F. Peddi, MD, joined the staff of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center as director of medical oncology. Born in Iran, she moved to the United States after high school and attended Vanderbilt University. She attended medical school at Duke University and spent a year conducting research at the National Institutes of Health while at Duke. She completed her internal medicine training at Washington University, where she was a chief resident, and completed her oncology training at UCLA. She brings nearly a decade of experience leading medical oncology at the Revlon UCLA Breast Cancer Clinic at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she was involved in the design and implementation of all breast cancer research trials. Dr. Peddi has received numerous awards and honors for her research and patient care.

HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN MEDICINE IN GENERAL AND BREAST CANCER IN PARTICULAR?

It was an interest in the combination of science and helping others and having a human connection to patients. As I did hospital rotations, I found care of the cancer patients to be the most rewarding. I liked the focus not just on one organ but the whole body, because cancer can go to any organ. Also, cancer is a life-changing experience—one of the most difficult parts of people’s lives. So the long-term relationships doctors form with cancer patients are without parallel in medicine. I was drawn to breast cancer specifically because it is an area where you see patients at all stages of the disease—from the very early and curable stages to the most advanced forms.

HOW HAS THE OUTLOOK IMPROVED FOR BREAST CANCER PATIENTS OVER THE PAST DECADE?

Mortality rates have come down significantly despite more diagnoses of breast cancer because we’re screening more women. Treatments have improved vastly. Most significant are targeted drug treatments and so-called smart chemotherapy drugs, which target only cancer cells—not the “good” cells. They have fewer side effects and are more effective. Every year we have new drugs approved, so things are moving fast.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TAKE THIS POSITION AT SAINT JOHN’S, AND WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE HEALTH CENTER’S STRENGTHS IN BREAST CANCER CARE?

I was very familiar with Saint John’s through colleagues and from living in Santa Monica. I also delivered my second child here. I was looking for a center that understood the importance of breast cancer and was willing to devote resources to it. The breast center is already strong in providing very individualized patient care and having multiple specialties that work together. I look forward to helping it further and developing the clinical trial program so patients have access to the latest treatment options.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE PROGRAM?

One focus is having research studies available to our patients that could improve on the current standard.
Multiple clinical trials are in the works for all different types of breast cancer.
We’re also working on expanding the availability to patients of up-and-coming procedures and medications. For
example, a few weeks ago, Saint John’s introduced a new kind of PET scan for breast cancer, which is not available locally in our community otherwise.

WHY IS THE SUPPORT OF THE SAINT JOHN’S HEALTH CENTER FOUNDATION IMPORTANT FOR THE MARGIE PETERSEN BREAST CENTER TO OFFER THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF CARE?

Because federal research funding has gone down, we’re relying more and more on pharmaceutical companies or philanthropy to drive cancer research and improvements in care.
It’s extremely important for clinicians to develop the philanthropic side and partner with people who want to make a difference in their community and make an investment in cancer research and care that will help transform the lives of women with breast cancer.

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