Lung cancer accounts for 30 percent of the cancer deaths in men in New Jersey, and 23 percent of cancer deaths in women. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately one out of every 14 men and women will be diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lifetime.
“At Cooper a team approach to lung cancer care ensures the best possible outcomes for each patient,” says Melvin Pratter, MD, Head, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “A multidisciplinary team of board certified specialists in interventional pulmonology, thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, nuclear medicine and pathology meets weekly to review newly diagnosed cases and re-evaluate patients who have experienced a change in status and require further consideration.”“Lung cancer cases are often complicated, and treatment often requires a combination of modalities,” says Tamara LaCouture, MD, Medical Director of the South Jersey CyberKnife Center at Cooper and Chief of the Department of Radiation Oncology. “There’s much to be said for integrated, multispecialty care – to having a team of experts gather together, all focused on discussing each patient’s case, getting answers and coming up with the best clinical pathway for each patient… I’ve not seen another thoracic oncology team as cohesive as this one.”
Diagnostic and Interventional Pulmonology
Finding answers begins with accurate diagnosis and staging. In addition to offering the most advanced diagnostic imaging technology available, Cooper is the only South Jersey hospital performing endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)-guided bronchoscopy and video-assisted thoracoscopy for biopsies.
“These procedures not only are less invasive but enable us to safely, accurately and quickly biopsy previously difficult-to-access lymph nodes and tissue masses,” says Interventional Pulmonologist Ziad Boujaoude, MD, from Cooper’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.
Advanced Surgical Techniques
When surgery is indicated, Cooper offers equally advanced techniques and an unparalleled depth of experience.
“We do about 175 lobectomies a year, and over 85 percent of them are performed minimally invasively using the thorascope and three tiny port incisions,” explains Frank W. Bowen, III, MD, Director of Thoracic Aortic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology, and Thoracic Surgical Director. “It allows patients to have a shorter stay (the majority of patients are discharged within four days), better analgesia since there’s no incision through major muscles, and a faster recovery.
“We do significantly more thorascopic lobectomies than other South Jersey hospitals and our outcomes are excellent,” he adds, noting that surgical resection is the primary treatment option for lung cancers up to stage IIB.
Innovative Radiation Oncology Treatment Options
Cooper offers the full spectrum of radiation oncology treatment options, including external beam radiation therapy utilizing 3-D treatment planning, 4-D respiratory gated therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery utilizing the CyberKnife®. The CyberKnife system is designed to pinpoint and destroy tumors using high doses of radiation delivered from any direction or angle with sub-millimeter accuracy, while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Sophisticated interactive robotic technology continuously and automatically tracks the patient’s position, respiration and body movement and uses this information to precisely target each beam of radiation to match the tumor’s position.
“Through our affiliation with the University of Maryland, we also offer novel radiation therapy protocols through the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group,” Dr. LaCouture notes.
Medical Oncology and Clinical Trials
Medical oncology treatment options are just as comprehensive and cutting-edge.
“We have expertise in treating many types of malignancies and are able to offer patients the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking clinical trials,” says Priya C. Singh, MD, an attending physician in the Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology who specializes in caring for patients with lung cancer.
Cooper Cancer Institute is a major clinical research affiliate of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) affiliate of Christiana Care Cancer Center for all major NCI-sponsored cooperative group studies. “Many studies combine medical and radiation oncology protocols giving patients access to promising new treatments,” Dr. Singh adds.
Patient Education and Supportive Care Services
A key member of the Lung Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary team is Charu Vora, RN, Lung Cancer Nurse Coordinator. Charu is a certified oncology nurse who provides support and education, and helps patients and their families navigate the healthcare system.
“A lung cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and Charu is here to go every step of the way with each patient,” says Dr. Singh. This includes timely scheduling of treatment appointments, and connecting the patient and family to the full complement of supportive services available at Cooper, such as nutrition counseling, genetic testing and counseling, support groups and psychological counseling, social services and complementary therapies.
Symptom management is an integral part of lung cancer care. Dr. Boujaoude notes that Cooper is the only facility in South Jersey offering a Palliative Care Program to help manage pain, dyspnea and other symptoms in conjunction with cancer treatment and when patients have exhausted all treatment options and are nearing the end of life. “We can perform endobronchial ablation of tumors to relieve airway obstruction, using laser or argon plasma coagulation or cryotherapy, and place airway stents,” he notes. “And for palliative treatment of symptomatic pleural effusion, we offer catheter drainage and pleurodesis.”
As South Jersey’s most comprehensive resource for the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, the Lung Cancer Center at Cooper Cancer Institute is uniquely positioned to give patients with this complex disease the best possible outcomes.
“All the needs of a person with lung cancer can be met under the Cooper umbrella,” says Dr. Singh. “We can provide truly multidisciplinary care under one roof. And it’s a huge roof.”
For more information about the Lung Cancer Center at Cooper Cancer Institute, or to refer a patient, please call Charu Vora, RN, Lung Cancer Nurse Coordinator, at 856.673.4269.