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Perlmutter Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Expertise & Patient Focus Featured in Video Series

Rapid advancements in care for people with lung cancer are translating to improvements in early detection and survival. Teamwork: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Early Lung Cancer, a six-part series produced by Medscape, reports on how these advancements are making a difference in people’s lives. The series, done in collaboration with NYU Langone Health, is also a look at the expertise that has made its Perlmutter Cancer Center a leading institution in its field.

The Medscape series includes interviews with lung cancer experts Daniel H. Sterman, MD, director of the Pulmonary Oncology Program in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine; Abraham Chachoua, MD, director of Perlmutter Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Center; Elaine Shum, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine; Amie J. Kent, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery; and Benjamin Cooper, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and director of proton therapy services at Perlmutter Cancer Center.

“We are seeing a confluence of innovations in almost every area that one could imagine in the prevention and care of lung cancer,” said Dr. Sterman, who is also the Thomas and Suzanne Murphy Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine, professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. “These areas are undergoing a dramatic revolution in the ability to provide safe and effective care simultaneously.”

Recent advances in genomic sequencing have led to the development of targeted oral therapies for lung cancer, which have significantly improved outcomes for patients who were previously facing a poor prognosis, Dr. Sterman said. He cited other innovations, including minimally invasive surgeries using robotics that can deliver lung-sparing procedures and get patients home sooner and with less pain. Robotic technology—along with novel imaging and ultrasonography—aids in the identification of small lesions in the lung and facilitates earlier lung cancer diagnosis. In the not too distant future, Dr. Sterman said, minimally invasive endoscopic techniques will enable direct delivery of novel therapies to lung tumors. Improved methods for delivering radiation therapy and a better understanding of how to combine radiation with other treatments provide better long-term outcomes with less injury to patients.

“We have the ability to incorporate all these advancements in a single center at Perlmutter Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Center for patients at Perlmutter Cancer Center—34th Street in Manhattan as well as at Perlmutter Cancer Center—Sunset Park in Brooklyn and at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island,” Dr. Sterman said. “We bring all these resources together in a patient- and family-friendly manner that enables them to see multiple physicians and have testing done on the same day and receive streamlined, innovative care that could only be dreamed of a couple of decades ago.”

The multidisciplinary aspect of Perlmutter Cancer Center’s approach to treating lung cancer is exemplified by the weekly Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Tumor Board, during which specialists with different areas of expertise—some focused on research, others primarily involved with clinical care, and some involved in both—discuss the most challenging cases. In addition, because the various cancer specialties are located in proximity to each other at Perlmutter Cancer Center, physicians can walk down a hallway and speak to someone, for example, from medical oncology or thoracic surgery and share ideas and thoughts.

“We also hold meetings where we discuss the latest developments in research with the entire group so that we are all aware of what is available for patients,” Dr. Sterman said. “Perlmutter Cancer Center is absolutely a leader in research in medical and radiation oncology, pulmonary medicine, and thoracic surgery, where we are conducting the clinical trials that are changing the field; other clinicians and researchers then look to us for the innovations that are being developed at NYU Langone.”

In the Medscape series, Dr. Sterman noted that screening rates for lung cancer remain low—around 6 percent nationwide and in New York City. Educating family practitioners and primary care physicians about the importance of referring patients for screening and for providing relevant information to patients themselves is vital, so that parties understand the importance of annual surveillance imaging with lung CT scans for high-risk individuals. Since 2000, Perlmutter Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Screening Program has been part of the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Harvey I. Pass, MD, the Stephen E. Banner Professor of Thoracic Oncology in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and professor in the Department of Surgery, and Leopoldo N. Segal, MD, the William Rom and David Kamelhar Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, are currently leading early lung cancer efforts via the EDRN at Perlmutter Cancer Center.

“It needs to be better understood that the value of lung cancer screening is at least as good as—and perhaps better than—many other cancer screening modalities that have a much higher subscription rate, such as colonoscopy for people over the age of 50,” Dr. Sterman said.

Annual low-dose chest CT scan imaging can help identify individuals from high-risk categories and potentially detect lung cancer at the earliest possible stage, where it is highly curable. Developments in using biomarkers from blood tests and from exhaled breath also can identify those for whom early intervention may either prevent lung cancer or allow its diagnosis at the earliest possible stage.

“From my perspective as an observer of what is happening within and outside the field of lung cancer research, the interventions and treatments we are able to provide are evolving rapidly,” Dr. Sterman said. “The therapies that we are able to provide our patients in February 2024 may be dramatically enhanced by the time fall of 2024 rolls around. That is how quickly innovations are being made in this field.”

The Medscape series, Dr. Sterman said, provides physicians the opportunity to learn about advances in lung cancer and enables patients and family members to learn more about the innovations in lung cancer care.

“At the very least I hope that through this series we can spur people who are dealing with a lung cancer diagnosis or who are concerned about the risk of developing lung cancer to try to get more information and to seek care,” Dr. Sterman said. “I think that the major take-home message is that there is reason to hope and that we are going to be able to offer the opportunity for cure for more and more people in the coming years.”

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