New Faculty in Radiation Oncology Aim to Advance Research, Personalized Care

August 31, 2020

Two new faculty members are joining the Department of Radiation Oncology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), with an emphasis in advancing cancer research and providing innovative individualized care to patients. Apar Gupta, MD, MBA, and Catherine (Katie) Spina, MD, PhD will begin their roles as assistant professors of radiation oncology, effective Sept. 1.

The Department of Radiation Oncology comprise specialists across medical fields at Columbia and provide comprehensive personalized care to patients with cancer. Faculty in the department are helping to advance and develop technologies and approaches to deliver cutting edge, effective, and safe radiotherapies. In addition to his appointment to the CUIMC faculty, Dr. Gupta also will be joining Columbia/NewYork-Presbyterian’s radiation oncology practice at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, NY.

Prior to Columbia, Dr. Gupta completed his residency as chief resident at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Dr. Gupta’s research will investigate the value of cancer treatment for patients and society, combining his training and interests in medicine and business. (Dr. Gupta completed a combined MD/MBA degree in health sector management from Boston University). He intends to explore the value of cancer treatment through cost-effectiveness simulations that model treatment value under different scenarios and circumstances with the goal of informing the choices that physicians and patients make.

Dr. Gupta knew as a child that he would become a doctor. Running into his father’s patients around town, he took notice quickly just how grateful they were to be under his father’s care. “In medical school, I realized that with a career in oncology I could build the expertise to treat patients in a time of great need while also forming deep and personal connections that span from initial presentation to many years of survivorship,” says Dr. Gupta. “I look to patients’ great determination and resolve to drive my clinical practice and research work.”

Dr. Spina, who completed her radiation oncology residency at Columbia/NewYork-Presbyterian and doctoral work at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, will be joining the multidisciplinary genitourinary oncology team at Columbia. Inspired by a physician-scientist mentor when she was an undergraduate studying chemistry, Dr. Spina later pursued a combined MD/PhD degree to gain the rigorous training necessary to conduct both basic and translational research while providing comprehensive care to patients.

Dr. Spina’s research will focus on how tumor-directed radiation effects a patient’s immune system. Her work will help define the underlying mechanisms of radiation-induced immune modulation of tumors and leverage these data to develop targeted therapies for combination with radiation and other immunotherapies to maximize clinical benefit.

Dr. Spina was inspired to become a doctor after an eye-opening experience working as an undergraduate volunteer in a West African hospital. The extreme poverty and limited resources of the area left a lasting impression. The experience motivated her to take full advantage of the rich educational opportunities offered in the U.S. in order to maximize her ability to give back.

Her decision to focus on oncology was driven both by her interests in the clinic and in the laboratory. “Oncology offers an interdisciplinary, mechanistically rich, ever-evolving field with broad-reaching implications for millions of cancer patients worldwide,” she says. “Clinically, I am drawn to oncology because it enables me to serve patients that are particularly vulnerable and in need of strong multidisciplinary care and support as they face the potentially fatal diagnosis of cancer.”