A conversation with John H. “Jay” Lohrey, M.D.

John H. “Jay” Lohrey, M.D.
John H. “Jay” Lohrey, M.D., Medical Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center Fort Worth

Q – What is the relationship between the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Moncrief Cancer Institute?

 Moncrief Cancer Institute is an affiliate of UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, which includes 13 major cancer care programs with a focus on treating the whole patient with innovative treatments while fostering groundbreaking basic research that has the potential to improve patient care and prevention of cancer worldwide. In addition, the Center’s education and training programs support and develop the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians. Opening the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center Fort Worth is an expansion of those services. 

Q  What brought you to the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center Fort Worth?

 There’s so much momentum and growth here. I wanted to be part of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Since 2009, it has been a National Cancer Institute-designated institute, on par with the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering. It employs internationally renowned physicians and researchers. And I look forward to helping the Center grow at the Moncrief Cancer Institute in Fort Worth.

Q – Please tell us about your background.

A  I’ve been working in the oncology field since 2000. I was raised in Oklahoma City, and initially wanted to become a family counselor. I studied in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas, receiving a Master’s in clinical psychology. After entering University of Oklahoma medical school, I realized that psychiatry was not my calling, so I did a residency in internal medicine and pediatrics in Tulsa. I noticed immediately how much I enjoyed working with adult oncology patients, and decided this would become my specialty. I joined Tulsa Cancer Institute in 2012 as a Medical Oncologist, after serving in the same capacity at its affiliate Cancer Care Associates in Tulsa since 2000. 

Q  What makes working with oncology patients special to you?

A  It’s more personal because the relationship is longer. My parents had the same physician their whole lives, and I had the same physician growing up. It’s not like that anymore. With cancer patients you establish a relationship, and you get to be with them and their families, sometimes for years. It’s very rewarding, and it’s a privilege to be their physician. 

Q – What are your top priorities at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center Fort Worth?

 As medical director, my first, middle, and last priority is ensuring that the patients have a good, safe, and quality experience. Secondly, I plan to go out in the community and let people know that we are here and what we can offer. I’ll be talking to primary care physicians, getting involved in community events and getting to know the community.

Q  What is distinctive about cancer care at Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center Fort Worth?

A  By coming here, patients will have access to the latest in clinical trials and can get second opinions from world-renowned cancer specialists. I will be able to pick up the phone and talk to colleagues at UT Southwestern who specialize in exactly the type of cancer that my patient has in Fort Worth. In addition, we address all aspects of the healing process through Moncrief Cancer Institute, where we offer services that address the nutritional, emotional, social, mental, and spiritual aspects of healing. We want to help patients with what comes after cancer – survivorship. 

Q  How has the cancer field changed during your career, and where is it headed?

A  The completion of the human genome project marked a paradigm shift in oncology that is already affecting the way we treat cancer. Through this project, scientists are beginning to identify common genetic changes in various types of cancer.  As we get older and are exposed to more toxins, our ability to identically duplicate our genes is hampered. In addition, certain families are more inclined to specific genetic mutations. 

In the future, we probably won’t classify cancer type by the organ where it originated, but by its main genetic change or changes (the driver gene). These genetic mutations can be identified through a process called “genomic profiling,” which is now commercially available. Treatments that attack particular genetic defects are often more effective and less toxic than conventional chemotherapy.