EXCLUSIVE: Prominent oncologist Philip Salem talks 50 years of cancer treatment

Souad El Skaf
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On the occasion of his golden jubilee, which is a celebration held to mark a 50th anniversary, an honorary ceremony was held Tuesday in the Lebanese capital Beirut for the world renowned oncologist, Lebanese-American Professor Philip A. Salem, where he was decorated with the highest ribbon by Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, and presented by Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil.

Philip Salem 2
Philip Salem 2

Professor Salem is visiting his home country for a month-long stay before returning back to the United States to resume his work as a researcher and physician at Baylor, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and in Salem Oncology Center, a world-renowned private cancer medical facility, both located in Houston.

During the ceremony Professor Salem presented to the audience two gentlemen in their mid-sixties, who both were cancer patients whom he treated when they were just 25-years-old, emphasizing the fact that even if “you give the best knowledge in the world” for a cancer patient, that will not be enough if it is not accompanied with hope, human caring and love.

Professor Philip Salem who is well known among his patients, colleagues, friends and family for his humble and kind character, both in the United States and Lebanon, said: “These traits I achieved through my journey studying medicine and later on in researching. As a scientist, I fail in 98 percent of experiments and maybe I succeed in just two percent, this alone taught me a lot of patience and how to be humble.”

The professor spoke to Al Arabiya English to discuss his massive breakthroughs in the field, and his thoughts about practicing in the medical field and oncology research for 50 years.

Al Arabiya English: First of all Professor Salem, tell us about the ceremony?

In June, 2018, I completed 50 years of work in science and medicine, specifically treating cancer patients from all over the world. My colleagues in Lebanon wanted to honor me and I was decorated by Lebanon’s president with the highest award for my contribution in the field of cancer medicine.

AAE: Can you tell us more about the latest in oncology treatments and any new breakthroughs?

Actually the landscape of oncology and medicine has changed significantly since the introduction of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy has shown to be very effective in diseases like lung cancer, melanoma cancer, liver cancer and many other types of cancer.

The second major progress that has been shown is a combination of chemo therapy and immunotherapy, as superior to either one alone.

The third major significant progress that my center (Salem Oncology Center in Huston) has shown is that the combination of the immunotherapy, chemotherapy plus targeted therapy, produced results which are superior to any treatment we had seen before.

“The third major significant progress that my center (Salem Oncology Center in Huston) have shown that the combination of the immunotherapy, chemotherapy plus targeted therapy, produced results which are superior to any treatment we had seen before.”

Professor Philip A. Salem.

AAE: In your observations, what’s the reason behind the increase in cancer cases around the world?

The major increase behind cancer around the world is: pollution in different types of things like air, food and water.

AAE: Your new book “Defeating cancer; Knowledge alone is not enough”, how was it received both abroad and in the Arab world?

This is my recent publication and it is actually a best seller in the United States. It is dedicated to cancer patients and I emphasize on the fact that these patients need love, human caring, kindness, hope, time from their physicians to listen to their concerns.. Even if a physician provide the best knowledge, this alone won’t be enough without the human touch.

Philip Salem 9
Philip Salem 9

Cancer disease is a long tough journey for anyone suffering from it, you have to be a loving, kind soul around these patients.

Considered one of the world’s best known oncologists, Lebanese-American Professor Philip Salem also gave Al Arabiya English a glimpse into his family life sharing with us some family pictures and stories of hope and courage from his late mother from whom he learnt not to forget to stay humble and kind to people in need.

Professor Salem ended his interview with Al Arabiya English with advice which he said he always starts with in his lectures and speeches.

“I hear a voice inside me saying: Do not let flattery take you to a place that is not proper for you... Do not allow success to destroy what is built.”

Philip Salem 8
Philip Salem 8

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