JB and Dana McCarroll were stunned when JB was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a rare form of cancer that later spread to his liver.

JB needed a highly specialized procedure that is only available at three hospitals across the country. Thanks to surgical oncologist Dr. Evan Glazer, a liver cancer expert, Regional One Health is one of them.

The McCarrolls say the care they are receiving from Dr. Glazer has allowed them to return to the things they love, like spending time with their grandkids.

When JB and Dana McCarroll were first told JB had cancer, they thought the doctor had accidentally walked into the wrong room.

“It was Labor Day Weekend in 2021. I came home from work and JB said, ‘Something’s not right. I don’t have any peripheral vision in my left eye,’” Dana recalls. “We were thinking it was a detached retina or something.”

Their ophthalmologist referred them to a specialist in Hattiesburg, an hour from their home in southern Mississippi. “They did more scans, and then the doctor came in and said, ‘It’s cancer,’” Dana said. “We thought, ‘You’ve got the wrong room.’”

JB, 62, had a rare cancer called uveal, or ocular, melanoma. Fewer than 2,000 people are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Highly specialized care would be essential, something that became even more evident when the cancer spread to JB’s liver and stopped responding to immunotherapy. He needed a state-of-the-art procedure called hepatic perfusion, which just recently received FDA approval and can only be performed by a limited number of specially trained cancer physicians with advanced expertise in this procedure.

Fortunately, one of those surgeons was available within driving distance: Dr. Evan Glazer, a surgical oncologist at Regional One Health Cancer Care and Associate Professor of Surgery at University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Dr. Evan Glazer is a national leader in the treatment of liver cancer. “The collaboration between University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Regional One Health lets us offer care at a very high level from an academic perspective, meaning we can provide treatments that wouldn’t be available in other settings,” he said.

Dr. Glazer is a leading expert in treating liver and pancreatic cancers. He serves on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network that establish the national guidelines for care, and as such, he has the experience and training to perform specialized procedures like hepatic perfusion.

Hepatic perfusion works by attacking cancer cells in the liver while protecting healthy tissue: “Liver cells have a great ability to regenerate, so the liver can tolerate the chemotherapy even as it kills cancer cells,” Dr. Glazer explained. “The cancer cells die and the liver cells regenerate.”

Despite the uniqueness and relative newness of hepatic perfusion, Dr. Glazer has performed over 50 of them, starting during his fellowship training at Moffitt Cancer Center. He was heavily involved in the phase III clinical trial that led percutaneous hepatic perfusion (as it is formally called) to obtain FDA approval last month.

When Dr. Glazer and his fellow UTHSC oncologists partnered with Regional One Health to create Regional One Health Cancer Care in 2021, he established his hepatic perfusion clinical trial at the hospital, making it one of just three sites nationwide where the procedure is available.

“The collaboration between UTHSC and Regional One Health lets us offer care at a very high level from an academic perspective, meaning we can provide treatments that wouldn’t be available in other settings,” Dr. Glazer said. “The goal of academic medicine is to supplement what is provided in a community setting with care that is more complex, and to offer cutting-edge, novel treatments patients otherwise wouldn’t have access to.”

As Dr. Glazer is quick to point out, “Part of my job as a UTHSC physician is to care for all people in the state, the region, and the country. My colleagues and I are faculty members in the leading health care training university in the State of Tennessee. It is our privilege and responsibility to bring cutting-edge, best practice medicine to our community.”

“In this case, hepatic perfusion provides a treatment option for patients who don’t have a lot of other options.”

The treatment JB McCarroll receives from Dr. Evan Glazer at Regional One Health Cancer Care allows him to focus his time not on medical appointments but on the things he loves – like his four grandchildren.

For Dana and JB, it was a game-changer.

“It’s miraculous that they can do this,” Dana said. “Had he been diagnosed even three years ago, none of this would have been available.”

In October, a multispecialty team led by Dr. Glazer and an interventional radiologist placed catheters in the blood vessels leading to and from JB’s liver, isolating the liver. They perfused his liver with chemotherapy and collected the blood that traveled through the liver, then filtered out the chemotherapy and returned the blood to the liver.

This type of bypass procedure is not available at all hospitals. Dana said the experience with Dr. Glazer, the ICU where JB recovered after his procedure, and Regional One Health’s new inpatient oncology facility were all second-to-none.

“We can’t say enough about Dr. Glazer and his team. They spent so much time with us and answered all of our questions. They’re very kind and compassionate,” she said. “I’m a nurse, and I worked in a hospital for 20 years, so I know you don’t always see that. Everybody in the ICU and on the oncology floor was so good to us. The staff is fabulous.”

Now, they’ll see Dr. Glazer for monitoring and additional perfusions. Hepatic perfusion can be done every six to eight weeks up to six times.

The procedure can prevent cancer from spreading and growing, prolonging a patient’s life and improving quality of life. Because patients aren’t getting frequent infusions, “They can work, they can go on vacation, they can enjoy life,” Dr. Glazer said. “They get a break from going to medical appointments.”

JB and Dana are grateful that Dr. Glazer is making cutting-edge care available in the Mid-South. “It’s miraculous that they can do this,” Dana said. “Had he been diagnosed even three years ago, none of this would have been available.”

That’s exactly what it has done for JB and Dana, who are excited to arrange their life around the things they love rather than around his medical care.

Prior to the procedure, they were constantly traveling far from home for regular immunotherapy infusions. Now, “He can basically get back to normal life,” Dana said. “He’s a big outdoorsman. He loves fishing, hunting, all of that. All three of our children live near us, which is a blessing. We have four grandsons ages 4-9, so they keep us running. The two youngest live right next door and the two oldest live about 15 minutes away. We get to go to all their ballgames, and we take the oldest two to school two or three times a week.”

They are grateful for the role Dr. Glazer and the collaboration between Regional One Health and UTHSC played in helping them get to that point. “Although something like this is terrifying, we could not have asked for a better experience,” Dana said. “It’s truly been a blessing.”

Learn more about Regional One Health Cancer Care at regionalonehealth.org/cancer-care/