Gynecological Oncologist Michael Ulm Discusses Exciting New Drugs for Cancer

May 06, 2024 at 01:29 am by pjeter

Antibody-drug conjugates FDA-approved for patients with ovary and cervical cancers can improve outcomes.



Michael Ulm, MD, a Gynecological Oncologist for the West Cancer Center with offices in Germantown, Tenn., and other locations in the region, specializes in treating ovarian, uterine, cervical, vulvar and vaginal malignancies.

Fortunately, women who live in the Memphis region now have access to antibody-drug conjugates that target tumors while sparing healthy tissue for patients with ovary and cervical cancers

“This gives patients effective new options for treatment when there were few available prior to this,” Ulm said. “These exciting drugs have shown improvements in both responses to treatment as well as survival in patients with these malignancies. West Cancer Center is the only center within 200 miles with clinical trials using antibody-drug conjugates for patients with cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancers – providing access to these therapies at no cost prior to FDA approval.”

These new antibody drug conjugates can improve treatment outcomes. Ulm said the ability to use genetic tumor testing to find personalized, targeted therapies to treat their patients has not only increased the effectiveness of treatments for gynecologic malignancies but has expanded the available options for patients who previously had one or two choices for therapy.

“Examples are immunotherapy in patients with cervical and uterine malignancies, as well as antibody drug conjugates for patients with cervical and uterine malignancies,” Ulm said. “Both of these targeted therapies have improved responses to treatment as well as survival in our patients.”

Uterine cancer is the most common gynecological cancer in the U.S. and many other developed countries. It is sometimes referred to as endometrial cancer or endometrial carcinoma because an estimated 90 percent of cases start in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus.

Ovarian cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. The American Cancer Society estimates for ovarian cancer in the U.S. for 2024 are that about 19,680 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and about 12,740 women will die from ovarian cancer.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in females. In 2018, it accounted for an estimated 570,000 new diagnoses and 311,000 deaths worldwide.

This cancer mainly develops in older women.

As with other cancers, the earlier it is detected, the better. Ulm said more effective screening increases the likelihood of early detection and cure in patients with gynecologic malignancies.

“Cervical cancer is an excellent example of a simple screening test – the pap smear and HPV testing – that has significantly decreased the mortality rate in the U.S.,” Ulm said. “Unfortunately, multiple large ovarian cancer screening trials have been negative, and some have even shown worse outcomes for patients who underwent screening. I speak for all oncologists when I say that I am excited for the potential of a blood test that looks for cancer DNA in the blood to hopefully improve our ability to detect all cancers at an early stage.”

All of the gynecologic surgeons at West Cancer Center use the robotic surgical platform to perform outpatient hysterectomies and basic surgical staging procedures for patients with both malignancies and benign gynecologic conditions. Ulm said compared to a traditional open hysterectomy, robotic surgery provides a faster recovery, less complications and less pain. Most of their patients go home the same day and recover fully in two-three weeks.

While having access to the latest, cutting-edge technology is critical, patients also really appreciate being cared for by a physician who is kind.

“Dr. Ulm is a compassionate, thorough and insightful physician,” said

West Cancer Center Chief Medical Office and Medical Oncologist Sylvia Richey, MD. “His kind approach to his patients is unsurpassed, and he makes every patient feel cared for by always being their advocate. Research is at the forefront of our mission at West Cancer Center, and Dr. Ulm actively participates in research trials and publishes academic articles. He has a passion to educate the next generation of physicians as well as the community. We are fortunate to have a physician of his caliber treating and giving hope to patients in the mid-South.”

Richey said the greatest advantage of being treated at West Cancer Center is the center’s comprehensive approach to patient care. West Cancer Center has all the services a patient needs in one place keeping the patient from being burdened with going to multiple facilities.

“Not only does West have multidisciplinary tumor boards for treatment planning but also supportive care services to help every part of the patient journey,” Richey said. “Our extensive research portfolio allows patients to receive the latest breakthroughs in cancer care before they are available to the public.”

Ulm advises four primary actions for prevention and early detection of cancer:

  1. See your primary care physician on a routine basis.
  2. Stay up to date on cancer screening tests (pap smears, colonoscopies, mammograms, skin checks).
  3. Live a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise
  4. Avoid tobacco use.

Ulm sees patients at the West Cancer Center in Germantown, and locations in Desoto, Midtown Campus/Regional One Health Cancer Center and Jonesboro, Ark.

He graduated with honors from University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, College of Medicine in 2011. Having more than 12 years of diverse experiences, especially in Gynecological Oncology, Ulm affiliates with many hospitals including St Bernards Medical Center, Baptist Memorial Hospital, Methodist Hospitals of Memphis, Regional One Health, St Francis Hospital. He cooperates with many other doctors and specialists in many medical groups.

Ulm is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, minimally invasive gynecologic surgery focused practice and Gynecologic Oncology.

Ulm lives in East Memphis with his wife, who is also a surgeon, and three young children. They enjoy spending time together including visiting the Memphis Zoo and the Memphis Botanic Garden and attending Memphis Grizzlies games.