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dr james c wittig, orthopedic oncologist, new york, new jersey

HACKENSACK, NJ, April 5, 2007 - There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when a diagnosis of a bone cancer or a benign bone tumor in a leg or arm meant amputation of the limb. Today at The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, adults and children with tumors of the bone, muscles, connective soft tissues, joints, and synovial membranes around the joints can be treated with a multidisciplinary approach that saves the limb. Advancements in surgical techniques, new modalities, technology, orthopedic materials, chemotherapy, radiation, and imaging studies at The Cancer Center mean that 95 percent of patients with an orthopedic malignancy do not need to lose a leg or arm to cancer or a benign tumor.

At The Cancer Center, the orthopedic oncology team of the Division of Skin and Sarcoma is pioneering innovative techniques in sophisticated limb-sparing surgery and the use of heat energy in radiofrequency ablation and extreme cold in cryosurgery to provide patients with the most advanced orthopedic cancer care in North Jersey.

"A comprehensive treatment plan for a primary orthopedic malignancy or benign tumor at The Cancer Center involves integrating the skills and expertise of an orthopedic oncologist, musculoskeletal radiologists, interventional radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, pediatric oncologists, and radiation oncologists because patients usually require surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation to provide optimal treatment," says Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., chairman and executive administrative director of The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center.

James C. Wittig, M.D., a board-certified orthopedic oncologist, is chief of the Division of Skin and Sarcoma at The Cancer Center, and chief of orthopedic oncology in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. He is one of only a handful of orthopedic oncologists in the metropolitan New York-New Jersey area who is experienced in performing complicated limb-sparing surgeries and other orthopedic cancer techniques. During a unique two-year fellowship in orthopedic oncology at the Washington Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C., he trained in vascular surgery and plastic surgery as well as his specialty. He offers patients these additional skills and can perform an entire limb-sparing surgery himself. He has been on staff at The Cancer Center for three years and is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at New York University Medical Center, where he conducts research in orthopedic oncology.

Because primary orthopedic cancers (those that originate in the bone not metastasize into it) are rare, it is crucial for patients to be treated by a board-certified orthopedic oncologist with special training to be certain the surgeon treats these tumors regularly and has expertise in their removal and ongoing management of the cancer. Research studies over the past few years in various areas of surgery prove that an experienced surgeon who performs a procedure often is the best choice for a positive surgical result.

"If it is suspected that you have an orthopedic malignancy, it is important to be treated in a major academic and research center such as Hackensack University Medical Center because we have all the services in place that you need throughout all stages of your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery," says Dr. Wittig. "We also have specialists not available at all hospitals, such as musculoskeletal radiologists to diagnose the problem and monitor treatment and interventional radiologists to perform minimally invasive biopsies. We perform limb-sparing surgery regularly so our nurses, social workers, and support staff are thoroughly familiar with the procedure and post-operative care."

Even benign orthopedic tumors need to be treated carefully by an orthopedic oncologist because although these tumors will not metastasize, they can grow aggressively and destroy bones, says Dr. Wittig. Dr. Wittig and the orthopedic oncology team at The Cancer Center offer their patients the following advanced diagnostic and treatment methods:

~limb-sparing surgery, during which Dr. Wittig removes the bone or portion of the bone containing the tumor and replaces it with a metal prosthesis; ~radiofrequency ablation, during which Dr. Wittig or an interventional radiologist places a probe into the tumor and destroys it with heat energy; ~cryosurgery, during which Dr. Wittig pours liquid nitrogen into the surgical site to kill any remaining tumor cells; ~pre-operative chemotherapy to kill bone and soft tissue sarcomas prior to surgical removal, making the surgery less extensive and reducing the chance of recurrence; ~external beam radiation therapy following surgery in some cases; ~minimally invasive percutaneous biopsies performed by interventional radiologists, who extract the tissue needed for a diagnosis without cutting; and ~epineural analgesia to provide post-operative pain relief directly to the surgical site.

Dr. Wittig's goals for The Cancer Center include enhancing the Division of Skin and Sarcoma's ability to provide outstanding patient care, high-quality services, and novel treatment approaches for patients at Hackensack University Medical Center. Dr. Wittig received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine. He completed an internship in general surgery at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center and a residency (chief resident) in orthopaedic surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, both in New York City. He chose to specialize in orthopedic oncology while working at Columbia with two pioneers in the field: Ralph Marcove, M.D., and Harold Dick, M.D. Dr. Wittig completed a two-year fellowship in orthopaedic oncology at Washington Cancer Institute, in Washington, D.C., and was a sarcoma consultant at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

He is currently on the faculties of New York University Medical Center, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, Bellevue Hospital Center, and Manhattan Veterans Administration Hospital. His research interests include limb-sparing surgery for bone and soft tissue sarcomas and other benign orthopedic tumors, overexpression of protooncogenes and growth factor receptors by osteosarcoma and other bone and soft tissue sarcomas, induction chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcomas, cryosurgery, and epineural analgesia. His research has been published in medical journals and presented at annual meetings of orthopedic surgery, oncology, endocrinology, and cell biology associations.

The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is New Jersey's largest in the number of patient visits and the one ranked the best cancer center in the state by New York magazine. The Cancer Center focuses on transforming cancer care by offering multidisciplinary care, personalized treatment, innovative research, superior outcomes, and patient satisfaction within 15 disease-specific divisions. For more information about The Cancer Center, call 201-996-5900 or visit

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