Dr. Rice was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. He received his medical degree (M.B., B.Ch.) at the School of Medicine, Trinity College, the University of Dublin in 1991 and then completed his internship at St James Hospital, Dublin, Ireland in 1992. He left Ireland in 1992 to obtain his general surgery residency training at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN in 1999. During this time Dr. Rice took 18 months to complete a research fellowship in tumor immunology, examining ways of stimulating T-cells of the immune system to better fight cancer. Dr. Rice went on to continue training in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine and at The UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center from 1999 – 2001. Dr. Rice joined the faculty of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2001 where he is currently a Professor in Surgery.
Since joining MD Anderson, Dr. Rice has striven to provide the best and most modern surgical care possible to patients with thoracic malignancies. His clinical interests have followed two very divergent paths. First, to continue to be a leader in the field of thoracic surgery by pushing the envelope and practicing new and more innovative ways of doing surgery that impart less surgical trauma and pain for the patient and yet offer the same oncologic benefit as traditional procedures. Dr. Rice and his colleagues have been active in greatly expanding the role of video assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) surgery in thoracic malignancies. Dr. Rice was the first surgeon to perform a minimally invasive esophagectomy at this institution. This is a technically demanding and highly complex procedure that is routinely performed at only a handful of other centers, and offers patients the potential for easier recovery with less pain and fewer pulmonary side effects than does a traditional ‘open’ surgery. Similarly, Dr. Rice and his colleagues have greatly expanded the use of minimally invasive lobectomy and now offer this procedure routinely for patients with small localized lung cancers.
Dr. Rice participated as a founder in the development of the MINTOS (Minimally Invasive and New Technologies in Oncologic Surgery) working group and has fostered the use of endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) guided mediastinal nodal biopsies in thoracic malignancies. With this advanced bronchoscopic method it is possible to accurately sample mediastinal lymph nodes using a video bronchoscope that has an ultrasound probe at its tip. The presence of mediastinal nodal metastases in patients with lung cancer dramatically alters management and prognosis, and prior to the development of EBUS it was possible to accurately biopsy these nodes only with mediastinoscopy, an invasive and occasionally morbid procedure. EBUS is now poised to replace routine mediastinoscopy within the next five years.
Dr. Rice’s research efforts have centered mainly on clinical research. He is the surgical principal investigator (PI) on the Vanguard study, which prospectively examines the use of novel targeted biological agents to prevent cancer recurrence in patients who have undergone surgery for lung cancer. Dr. Rice is also the surgical PI on a prospective randomized trial to evaluate the hemostatic effects of aprotinin during extrapleural pneumonectomy. He is the institutional PI for an American College of Surgeons Oncology Group clinical protocol (Z0040) and the institutional surgical PI on two other multi-center trials. One of these investigates the significance in circulating tumor cells in patients undergoing lung cancer surgery, and the other is a prospective trial of neoadjuvant chemotherapy, extrapleural pneumonectomy, and adjuvant radiation therapy in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.