Advancing Lung Cancer Treatment: Early Detection and New Treatment Options

MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper gives new hope to lung cancer patients in the region by providing a multidisciplinary, disease site-specific approach to cancer care, strengthened by advanced technology and supportive care services.

David D. Shersher, MD
Thoracic Surgeon
Co-Director, Aerodigestive Program

“Every patient is seen by a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and a surgeon,” says David D. Shersher, MD, Thoracic Surgeon and Co-Director of the Aerodigestive Program. “Cases are reviewed with about 30 experts collaborating, and we make a multidisciplinary decision about the best plan of action for each patient.”

Even with the best care and providers available, early detect ion remains a significant component of survival.

“In the early 2000s, 70% of people diagnosed had advanced-stage lung cancer, and we had limited ways to treat them,” says Polina Khrizman, MD, Hematologist/Medical Oncologist and Disease Site Leader for the Lung Cancer Program. “The question was, how do we find these cancers before they get to stage III or IV?”

The answer came in the form of low-dose CT lung screening for high-risk patients.

Polina Khrizman, MD
Hematologist/Medical Oncologist
Disease Site Leader, Lung Cancer Program

“Often, we see small nodules that may not be easily accessible by bronchoscopy or CT-guided biopsy,” says Dr. Shersher. “But if we find them early, determine which are clinically concerning, and get a tissue diagnosis by minimally invasive means, we can offer great chances for cure.”

“We approach every case critically to attempt the most minimally invasive procedure,” says Dr. Shersher.

Advanced Medical Treatment Options

“Medical therapy has improved significantly in the last five years, so we can not only treat patients more aggressively, but also with a curative intent,” says Dr. Khrizman.

One of the recent advances in lung cancer treatment is the use of immunotherapy.

“Immunotherapy triggers the immune system to recognize that cancer cells are invaders, and it should do something about it,” says Dr. Khrizman. “It’s widely used in patients with stage IV lung cancer, and it is the standard of care for patients with stage IIIB lung cancer, which is operable. Immunotherapy after chemo and radiation therapy decreases the risks of cancer returning.”

MD Anderson at Cooper is taking part in ALCHEMIST (Adjuvant Lung Cancer Enrichment Marker Identification and Sequencing Trial). ALCHEMIST consists of identifying people with early-stage lung cancer who have tumors that harbor EGFR and ALK gene alterations and determining whether the addition of drugs targeting these genetic alterations after completion of any standard therapy will result in improved survival.

Anthony Dragun, MD
Chair and Chief, Department of Radiation Oncology

MD Anderson at Cooper is also one of only a handful of centers in the nation and the only cancer center in the Philadelphia-South Jersey region to offer patients access to two Phase 2 clinical trials for Iovance—a new treatment option using tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) cell therapy. The trials include patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), melanoma, head and neck cancers, and cervical cancer, especially patients who have exhausted all other treatment options.

TIL therapy is derived from a patient’s own lymphocytes that have come to the tumor site to kill the tumor.

Powerful, Precise Radiation Treatment

“In addition to detecting cancer earlier and offering patients advanced surgical and medical treatment options, we have also been able to become more precise with radiation therapy,” says Anthony Dragun, MD, Chair and Chief of the Department of Radiation Oncology. “Every functional unit of lung left untouched by radiation improves the outcome for the patient.”

Gregory J. Kubicek, MD
Radiation Oncologist

An exciting new option now available is the MR-Linac—an innovative radiation treatment device that combines a powerful magnetic resonance imaging machine and a linear accelerator into a single device. MD Anderson at Cooper is one of only five cancer centers in the U.S. to offer patients this radiation treatment option.

While MR-guided radiation treatment has been available for a few years, the new technology provides clarity of imaging because of its extremely powerful magnet.

“This is an exciting time for us and tremendous news for patients needing radiation therapy,” says Dr. Dragun. “It gives our multidisciplinary team more treatment options, especially for patients with complex and metastatic cancers, and it delivers truly personalized cancer care.”

“The technology allows us to deliver pinpoint radiation that we can adjust as the tumor responds, or as things shift in the body during the treatment process,” says Gregory J. Kubicek, MD, Radiation Oncologist. “With the MR-Linac, we can minimize side effects and reduce the number of treatments for our patients.”

To refer a patient to MD Anderson at Cooper’s Lung Cancer Center, please call 855.MDA.COOPER (855.632.2667).

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