Dr. Tamar Sella, a radiology oncologist with a specialty in imaging, is the head of the Breast Imaging Center at Hadassah Hospital-Ein Kerem. A member of a multidisciplinary team of physicians, including oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, and radiologists, she is dedicated to improving the early diagnosis and clinical care of breast cancer patients, as well as advancing research in this field. As she expresses: “Early diagnosis improves prognosis.”
Dr. Sella has a special interest in breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for high-risk women, especially those who are BRCA gene carriers. The BRCA gene was discovered in 1995; in 1996, Hadassah Medical Center opened a BRCA clinic. Also important to her is Hadassah’s outreach to Palestinian, Ethiopian, and ultra-orthodox Jewish women who sometimes hesitate to come in for cancer screening.
A pivotal part of Dr. Sella’s practice is research. For example, she investigated risk factors among two genetically identical populations of Ethiopian immigrants: the first came to Israel between1981-1985 and dispersed into different areas of Israel; the second group of people, arriving in 1991, were clustered together in trailer camps. When Dr. Sella compared breast density (a high-risk factor for breast cancer) in the two populations, she found more breast density in the second group. The first group, in contrast, displayed density similar to Israelis, revealing the influence of environmental factors.
Dr. Sella is now involved in exploring infrared thermal imaging’s ability to measure the temperature of the breast and indicate when breast cancer tissue is present. She is also investigating the relationship between BCRA gene carriers and the development of prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Born in Tel Aviv, Dr. Sella spent her early childhood in California. She returned to Israel, however, at the age of 12, when her father, Prof. Zvi Fuks, was appointed Chairman of Hadassah’s Sharett Institute of Oncology, the home of internationally renowned oncologists. Following her two-year military service, Dr. Sella began her medical training at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical School. That was in 1987 and she has been at Hadassah ever since, which included a five-year residency program in diagnostic imaging.
With her father a cancer specialist, Dr. Sella grew up “with cancer ever in the background of my life,” she explains. “I knew early,” she says, “that I would like to sub-specialize in cancer imaging.” She did leave Hadassah briefly to participate in a breast and body imaging fellowship program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. During this time, and later as an attending radiologist at Hadassah, Dr. Sella focused on imaging for detection, staging, and follow-up of breast and prostate cancers. She introduced new advanced imaging techniques in these areas, being the first and only physician to perform endorectal coil MRI for prostate cancer in Israel. She and her colleagues have been performing MRI-guided biopsies since 2004—the first in Israel to do so.
Dr. Sella spoke at Hadassah headquarters in New York on November 10.