NEWS | November 4, 2011

UC Davis cardiothoracic surgeon named to national esophageal cancer board

David Tom Cooke will advise on research grant applications


David Tom Cooke, assistant professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UC Davis Health System and Cancer Center, has been named to the Medical Advisory Committee of the nonprofit Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF).

Cooke, who specializes in esophageal cancer surgery, will advise the organization on esophageal cancer research grant funding and continue to bring awareness and educate the public about esophageal cancer risk factors and treatment options.

Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing types of cancer in the United States, with more than 16,000 new diagnoses estimated for 2011 and more than 14,000 deaths for the same period.  The disease has poor survival when diagnosed at later stages, but can be cured when caught early.

The Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation, based in New Jersey, provides volunteers and support groups to assist patients, works to educate the public about the disease and funds research projects.

Dr. Cooke © iStockphoto
David Cooke

"We are pleased Dr. Cooke is joining our highly credentialed Medical Advisory Committee," said ECEF president and founder Bart Frazzitta. "The committee plays a crucial role as we continue to raise awareness and educate the public and the medical community about the alarming increase in esophageal cancer and its toll. Additionally, our medical experts vet requests for grants to fund medical research. Dr Cooke's work performing pioneering esophageal cancer surgeries at the highly regarded UC Davis Medical Center will make him an invaluable addition to this committee."

Cooke already has contributed to the development of comprehensive educational materials that will be distributed by the foundation for patient use. The foundation will release Esophagectomy, Post-Surgical Guide, Questions & Answers, in the coming months.

"Esophageal cancer is no longer considered a disease of older men or confined to a certain ethnic population," explained Cooke. "Women shouldn't think they are immune, either, as it is increasing throughout the country, proving to be a very fast killer. There are rarely, if any, symptoms until it is usually difficult to treat effectively."

Why the caseload is surging is not entirely understood, but Cooke said there are several likely reasons. 

"Our latest medical research shows lifestyle habits are a factor--with dietary-triggered acid reflux a primary culprit along with drinking and smoking," he said. "However, we also are seeing a strong genetic component as the disease brings major heartaches when it strikes multiple generations within a family."

Cooke completed a clinical fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2008, and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1999. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, is a member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Chest Physicians.

The associate program director of the cardiothoracic surgery residency at UC Davis, Cooke specializes in non-cardiac general thoracic surgery, thoracic oncology, surgical treatment of malignant and benign esophageal disease, and video-assisted thoracic surgery. His research interests include clinical trials of new drug treatments, surgical outcomes research, translational research, surgical education and medical social media.

For more information about the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation visit

UC Davis Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute- designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its top specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 9,000 adults and children every year, and offer patients access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program includes more than 280 scientists at UC Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The unique partnership, the first between a major cancer center and national laboratory, has resulted in the discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis is collaborating with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer-care services. For more information, visit


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