At Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, Fighting Cancer is Personal

COVER STORY | Photos by Kelley Sweet Photography –

Cancer patients have unique needs that are critical to successful treatment. Houston Methodist Neal Cancer Center at  Sugar Land is on their side.

The global fight against cancer is driven by innovation and research – new discoveries, breakthrough therapies and advancements in early detection.

Those elements are accessible close to home, where approximately 2,500 Fort Bend County residents are diagnosed with cancer each year. At Houston Methodist Neal Cancer Center at Sugar Land, patients have access to the latest and most sophisticated procedures and technologies, including the groundbreaking use of electrical fields to disrupt tumor progression and kill brain cancer cells.

But patients at the Cancer Center also benefit from a compassionate, personalized “whole body” approach to care, which extends far beyond technology and treatments.

“Fighting cancer requires more than just surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, although those are obviously extremely important,” said Sindhu Nair, M.D., board-certified hematologist-oncologist with Houston Methodist Sugar Land. “Patients have a wide range of needs throughout their care and beyond, including nutritional, spiritual and emotional support, assistance in navigating often complicated appointment scheduling and much more. At Houston Methodist Neal Cancer Center, we recognize that compassion, understanding and encouragement make a big difference.”

Introducing New Therapies

Cancer Center oncologists are constantly searching for new procedures, medications and treatments that can provide improved outcomes to patients. One example is the hospital’s recent first-ever treatment using tumor-treating fields (TTFields) therapy, completed by board-certified radiation oncologist Clive Shkedy, M.D. The treatment was performed on James Vaughn, a 77-year-old patient with glioblastoma, also referred to as a grade IV astrocytoma, which is a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumor.

TTFields is an emerging technology that uses high-frequency, low-intensity electrical fields to penetrate cancer cells, disrupt their separation and migration to other parts of the body and eventually kill the cells. It can safely be used in combination with traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“The introduction of TTFields technology here at the Cancer Center is exciting because it holds a great deal of promise across multiple tumor types,” Shkedy said. “Because cancer cells have different properties than healthy ones, we can target them with specific frequencies of electrical waves that penetrate the cell membrane and disrupt multiple functions. The healthy cells nearby are not damaged.”

Vaughn’s treatment has enabled him to exceed the life expectancy that patients with his type of cancer typically experience.

“This procedure was easy and painless,” Vaughn said. “I am extremely grateful to Dr. Shkedy and everyone at Houston Methodist Sugar Land who has supported me in my journey. I’ve gotten the best possible care, and everyone has always been so kind and helpful.”

TTFields may play a major role in improving outcomes for patients with aggressive solid tumors, the most difficult to treat due to issues with drug resistance, drug interactions and systemic toxicity.

“These patients typically have very challenging long-term outlooks, so the addition of a new treatment strategy is especially welcome,” Shkedy said. “We believe we can use TTFields successfully to treat a number of different types of cancer.”

 Comprehensive Services, Close to Home

The comprehensive oncology services offered at Houston Methodist Sugar Land – Fort Bend County’s only hospital with American College of Surgeons/Commission on Cancer (CoC) accreditation – are supported by a philosophy that beating cancer requires a multi-faceted strategy that includes:

  • Early detection through state-of-the-art diagnostics. When caught early, many cancers can be successfully treated. Patients who are regularly screened for common cancers such as lung, colon, breast and prostate cancer give themselves a much better chance of a positive outcome.
  • Genetic testing and counseling to help patients understand and adapt to their unique risks.
  • Innovative treatments such as immunotherapy, advanced surgery and the latest, most targeted radiation therapies.
  • Clinical trials to bring emerging therapies and procedures to the community.
  • Ongoing patient navigation for all cancer types to guide patients through the cancer care process.
  • A robust cancer survivorship program with many supportive resources.

Just as important, the hospital’s location in the heart of Fort Bend County is a tremendous benefit for the community because everything a patient needs is conveniently located on the Sugar Land campus – there’s no need to travel to the medical center for care.

“That’s critical because cancer treatment is often lengthy and requires regular visits, so being close to home eliminates many of the logistical challenges that patients face,” said Nair. “Patients often tell me how valuable it was to be treated here where friends and family members could easily help. It removes a great deal of the stress and anxiety associated with treatment.”

Collaborative Care and a Team Approach

Houston Methodist Neal Cancer Center’s team of specialists – including medical, radiation and gynecologic oncologists, hematologists and surgeons – routinely collaborates to design and implement customized treatment plans, ensuring that each patient receives the best possible care.

The patient care team also includes oncology-certified nurses, nutritionists, social workers, nurse navigators, a financial navigator and a music therapist who provide ongoing information and support throughout the treatment process.

Clive Shkedy, M.D., James Vaughn and Jessica Crist, RN, BSN, OCN.

“Facing a cancer diagnosis is never easy, but it helps to have a team of specialists on your side who are there with you, every step of the way,” said Amalia “Rose” Gonzales, a nurse navigator for patients undergoing treatment for breast or gynecological cancers. “As nurse navigators, we work with patients and family members to guide them toward the customized care, support and resources they need – from the day of diagnosis throughout the continuum of care.”

Expanding Access to Care

Another example of the hospital’s patient-centric approach is the Houston Methodist Breast Care Center’s new fast-track process. Now, patients who undergo a diagnostic mammogram can receive a same-day or next business day biopsy, if necessary, as long as they meet clinical criteria and have insurance approval.

The fast-track process also works for patients who have undergone a mammogram at another facility and have been referred to the Houston Methodist Breast Care Center for more testing. Those patients can also have the additional scans and a biopsy performed through the fast-track process.

“We’re shortening the timeframe for thorough and accurate diagnoses from a week or two down to one or two days,” said Logan Boatman, M.D., diagnostic radiologist in the Breast Care Center. “The sooner we have a diagnosis, the sooner the patient can begin treatment. It makes a difference.”

In keeping with the expanding population of Fort Bend County and surrounding areas, Houston Methodist Sugar Land is also expanding its oncology team, welcoming a fifth oncologist in April.

Houston Methodist Neal Cancer Center at  Sugar Land offers cutting-edge treatments  and leading technology.

Find Out More

To learn more about Houston Methodist Neal Cancer Center at Sugar Land, visit or call 346.279.1164 to schedule an appointment with a physician.

Survivorship Program Helps Enhance
Quality of Life After Cancer

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital started its cancer survivorship program in 2017, with a focus on providing services to all survivors regardless of where they received treatment.

“At the time, there weren’t any organized programs for cancer survivors in the area,” said Amy Sebastian-Deutsch, Director of Oncology & Infusion Services at Houston Methodist Sugar Land. “We wanted to offer a variety of programs that would help survivors adjust and adapt to life after cancer and keep it free so everyone could participate.”

The cancer survivorship program provides ongoing classes that support physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual health, as well as support groups for breast cancer, general cancer and ostomy survivors. The hospital also helps link survivors with resources for financial, transportation and other types of assistance.

Classes include:

  • Thriving Through Creative Arts, which offers survivors a chance to express themselves through creative arts, including art, crafts, music and poetry.
  • Life in Motion (chair yoga) is designed to improve balance, coordination and agility, along with social and emotional health.
  • Music4Life is designed to encourage support among like-minded individuals using musical experiences. This group provides an outlet for emotional and self-expression, coping skills, and creates positive relationships. No talent is needed to benefit, and Music4Life is led by a board-certified music therapist

“When it comes to cancer, a lot of people focus on technology and treatments but overlook the importance of quality of life,” said Sebastian-Deutsch. “Our cancer survivorship program helps bring a little joy and camaraderie to these survivors while teaching them coping skills. It’s an important benefit for our community.”

Annual Cancer Survivors Day “Knocks Cancer Out of the Park”

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital hosts an annual Cancer Survivors Day celebration, bringing together survivors, caregivers and hospital staff to celebrate life after a diagnosis of cancer. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, June 1st, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Houston Marriott Sugar Land Town Square. In honor of the Astros 2022 World Series win, this year’s theme is “Knock Cancer Out of the Park.”

The event includes a resource fair, selfie station and lunch with keynote speaker Dave Dravecky, a former Major League Baseball player whose career ended when a cancer diagnosis caused his pitching arm to be amputated.

The event is free, but registration is required at To learn more, call 346.279.1164.