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USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

TON - MARCH 2012 VOL 5, NO 2 published on April 10, 2012 in Cancer Center Profile

The University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is part of the Keck School of Medicine and is designated by the National Cancer Institute as one of the nation’s 40 comprehensive cancer centers. Located in Los Angeles, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center serves as a regional and national resource for cancer treatment, research, prevention, and education. The staff at the cancer center includes approximately 200 basic and population scientists, physicians from the faculty of the USC Keck School of Medicine, and members of several USC professional schools/departments and the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center provides patient care through inpatient and outpatient services at several affiliated hospitals (USC Norris Cancer Hospital, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, USC University Hospital, and Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center) and outpatient clinics. Taline Khoukaz, NP, MSN, ACNP-C, works in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. She answered our questions about colorectal cancer care and working as part of a multidisciplinary team.

As an oncology nurse specializing in colorectal cancer, can you describe your interaction with the multidisciplinary team at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and how it relates to patient outcomes?

Taline Khoukaz (TK): At USC Norris Comprehensive Oncology Department, we have 4 GI oncologists and 3 nurse practitioners. The multidisciplinary group consists of specialized colorectal surgeons, hepatobiliary surgeons, radiation oncologists, a patient advocate, an ostomy nurse, dietitians, and genetic  counselors. Working as a team, we provide effective and seamless outcomes for our patients. In addition, our delegated social worker provides emotional support for patients and their family members and assists in making appropriate referrals to home services. 

What types of outreach programs for colon cancer management is the USC Norris Cancer Center involved in? 
 
 
 
TK: Every year in the month of March, which is colorectal cancer awareness month, we at USC celebrate with our patients at a reception. Throughout the year, we provide lectures to patient advocacy groups and wellness communities, write blogs on a colon cancer Web site, and post to a novel biomarker-driven Web site called CollabRx (www.collabrx.com/) that we created.
 
Can you describe the role of genetic counseling as part of your patients’ care?  

TK: The genetic counselor is an integral part of our team, seeing all patients who may have any kind of genetic predisposition based on their age, pathology, or family history of cancer. She works closely with us to develop screening guidelines for patients with familial adenomatous or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.

What are you most excited about in the field of colorectal cancer?
 
TK: I have been an oncology nurse practitioner for over 11 years. Since I have been in this field, we have had 4 new agents, including targeted agents, approved by the FDA for the treatment of colon cancer. Patients have been living years past the survival statistics given to them for stage IV colon cancer. At USC, we are very proud to be on the forefront on individualized chemotherapy. Our patients are screened for mutations in Kras, Braf, PI3K, and Nras, and gene expression levels of TS, ERCC-1, EGFR, VEGF, and VEGFR, which will guide us to select the most effective therapy for our patients. 
 
What inspired you to become an oncology nurse?
 
TK: Initially, I did not consider becoming an oncology nurse. I used to work as an RN in the ICU, and then interviewed for a neurosurgical nurse  practitioner job. By chance, I was offered an oncology nurse practitioner position instead. After much debate with myself, I decided I would try it and see how I felt. Immediately, I was drawn to this patient population and their fight to live! I have found this to be a most rewarding job—with its share of tears. The patients and their families are always showing their gratitude with hugs, kisses, and, at times, with chocolates!  
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Last modified: September 9, 2019