Laura Bukavina, MD, MPH, a Urologic Oncology Fellow at Fox Chase Cancer Center, works in many worlds.
On the research front: Dr. Bukavina has been awarded a 2022 Urology Care Foundation Research Scholar Award, which supports promising research leaders with the necessary training and guidance for a successful research career.
Bukavina's $40,000 one-year award will investigate tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and macrophages and define their role in the immunotherapy response to bladder cancer. “We hope to use artificial intelligence mapping to automate patient risk stratification based on an individual’s immune infiltration, before and during immunotherapy,” said Bukavina.
The research will be conducted under the mentorship of Philip Abbosh, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the Molecular Therapeutics research program at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
“Dr. Bukavina’s work has the potential to further our understanding of bladder cancer management with a direct impact in the clinic,” said Andres F. Correa, MD, director of the Urologic Oncology Fellowship and an assistant professor in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase.
Earlier this year, Bukavina received the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Genitourinary Conquer Cancer Merit Award for the winning abstract, which characterized the gut microbiome of bladder cancer patients. She presented it at the 2022 ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium, also under the mentorship of Dr. Abbosh.
On the front lines of war: On Feb 24, 2022, as bombs exploded over Ukraine, Dr. Laura Bukavina and her husband, both originally from Ukraine, made a life-changing decision. They flew more than 5,000 miles to the Ukrainian-Polish border of Medyka. Two days after the terrible news broke, on February 26, they headed to the airport with eight bags of medical supplies.
In Medyka, people were waiting for five days to cross into safe territory carrying their lives with them: An infant wailing in a mother’s arms, a middle-aged couple weighed down with housewares, a young family with their puppy, a 99-year-old man slumped in a wheelchair. During February and March 2022, 20,000 people a day arrived there, all needing the basics for survival: Water, food, formula, medicine, blankets, coats, and kibble for pets.
For a few days, Dr. Bukavina managed the monumental medical tasks on her own but soon was joined by Sauveteurs Sans Frontiers (SSF), Rescuers without Borders, a non-governmental medical relief agency dedicated to helping people in distress globally. Together they set up logistics to transport people in buses, vans, and cars to refugee camps and assembled medical tents to treat fevers and injuries and even administer chemotherapy. Social media platforms were leveraged to broadcast real-time updates and requests for help. The world was watching and helping.
Home team support came swiftly as Fox Chase Cancer Center, Case Western, and Cleveland Maidan and MedWish set up conduits for donations.
Approximately 3.2 million people became refugees overnight, fleeing their homes, families, communities, and roots. Many were killed in the process.
After two weeks and caring for up to 100 patients each night, Dr. Bukavina returned home with a new outlook on life. She says, “My journey is not unique. Small efforts done consistently ultimately make a huge difference. I hope it encourages everyone to do the same.” Since her first trip, Dr. Bukavina has returned to assist in Ukraine three additional times and noted that “help and support is constantly needed.”