Atlanta Area Allergist Develops Cutting Edge Cancer Treatment Program at DeKalb Medical

Atlanta, GA – Until recently, allergic reactions have prevented some cancer patients from getting the best treatment available for their cancer. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms ranging from excruciating pain to vomiting, weakness or worse, anaphylactic shock – a life-threatening condition that moves quickly, causing difficulty breathing, dizziness, swelling of the tongue and bronchial tubes, low blood pressure and heart failure. Patients may then need to be switched to another cancer medication that is not as effective. Now, an Atlanta-area Allergy Specialist, George Gottlieb, M.D., in partnership with DeKalb Medical’s Cancer Center, has a rapid desensitization treatment program that allows cancer patients, who are allergic to their chemotherapy medication, to receive the drug that is most effective for their cancer diagnosis.

"When a patient develops an allergy to an essential drug needed for treatment, we have to find alternative drugs,” says Betty Castellani, D.Min., Director of the Cancer Center. Often, the other chemo drugs are less effective or more toxic than the preferred options. “This new program offered by Dr. Gottlieb provides us with the means to continue treating a patient with the drug of choice. We are very excited to offer this protocol to patients who have been forced to halt a treatment because of a drug allergy," adds Castellani.

As a double board-certified Allergist and Immunologist, Dr. Gottlieb spends much of his time helping patients tolerate things they need, but which cause them to have allergic reactions. And he’s always looking for new ways to help his patients. Dr. Gottlieb believed he could offer a way to desensitize patients who are allergic to chemotherapy. He created an outpatient program at DeKalb Medical to help cancer patients whose bodies have rejected the chemotherapy medications that they need to treat their cancer. Over the past year, he has successfully completed over 60 chemotherapy desensitizations. These included desensitizations for a variety of drugs used to destroy cancer cells, including carboplatin, oxaliplatin, cisplatin, retuximab and paclitaxol. One patient who successfully completed chemotherapy with the help of Dr. Gottlieb's rapid desensitization program and is now cancer-free says, "DeKalb Medical saved my life." Another patient, Cheryl Friedman, a 7-year cancer survivor says Dr. Gottlieb's rapid desensitization program, "is another reason why I love DeKalb Medical and I believe in the doctors there. Everyone works together as a team."

Rapid desensitization sessions last a total of 6 to 8 hours. Patients take gentle premedications that include oral antihistamines, ibuprofen and aspirin before the sessions.

Dr. Gottlieb says, “I’m very grateful to partner with the DeKalb Medical’s Cancer Center and work with the outstanding pharmacists and nurses there.” The work of the pharmacist is critical. The chemo ingredients can be toxic if they are inhaled or contact the skin. The mixture has to be prepared behind a glass enclosure by a highly skilled pharmacist wearing special gloves and protective clothing. In addition, the Center has excellent nurses and advanced monitoring equipment that allows immediate intervention if the patient starts having a reaction to the chemotherapy.

The chemo desensitization program at DeKalb Medical is available to patients and cancer specialists in the Atlanta area. Now that the word is getting out, oncologists throughout the Southeast are referring patients to DeKalb Medical to receive rapid desensitization treatments. Those interested can call 404.294.4761 or visit Chemotherapy Desensitization for more information.

About DeKalb Medical

DeKalb Medical continues to be a leader in cancer research and treatment, one of less than 20% of hospitals in the United States that have approved cancer programs to achieve an additional three-year approval as a community hospital comprehensive cancer program from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. In addition, DeKalb Medical has earned the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer as a comprehensive community cancer for the past six years

Also a leader in heart attack treatment and orthopedics, DeKalb Medical is a non-profit hospital system serving half a million patients annually. Founded in Atlanta in 1961, the system includes the 451-bed DeKalb Medical at North Decatur. It was also named in the top 5% of all U.S. hospitals in 2009 and 2010 for clinical excellence by HealthGrades® and received theDistinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence award. In addition, the System also operates the 40-bed DeKalb Medical Long Term Acute Care at Downtown Decatur and the 100-bed DeKalb Medical at Hillandale in Lithonia. For more information on DeKalb Medical, visit

About Dr. Gottlieb

George Gottlieb, M.D., a leading Allergy and Immunology Specialist, has practiced in the Atlanta area for more than 30 years. A nationally-recognized top doctor by both Consumers’ Guide and Castle Connolly, as well as an Atlanta Magazine "Top Doctor" and an Accent Gwinnett "Top Doctor," Dr. Gottlieb is double Board Certified in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology. He is a Diplomate of American Board of Allergy & Immunology, a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy & Immunology, and a Fellow of the American College of Allergists.


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