An expert offers insight into the major treatment improvements over the past 20 years for early-stage and late-stage lung cancer.
When comparing lung cancer treatments from 20 years ago to what is now available, current therapies are a “whole other ballgame,” according to Dr. Pierre de Delva.
De Delva, who is section chief of general thoracic surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Institute in Jackson, was recently recognized at CURE®’s third annual Lung Cancer Heroes® awards.
In an interview ahead of the ceremony, de Delva discussed how lung cancer treatments have changed over the past two decades — and how cancer deaths have decreased throughout the United States.
It's a whole other ballgame. We have been at a relative flatline in overall outcomes, long-term outcomes of cure of lung cancer for decades — for a long time.
The research focus, the industry focus (and) the grants that were available for lung cancer research, were not up to par, to trying to tackle the number-one killer cancer killer (that) kills more people than colon, breast and prostate combined.
There wasn't a lot that we could offer, particularly for patients with advanced stage (lung cancer), which is typically how patients present. When patients presented with early stage (lung cancer), all that we could offer were operations that had some level of morbidity.
Today, we are able to provide patients (with) options at almost every stage.
For the very advanced stage, now we have targeted therapy — biomarker driven care — that helps us personalize patients options for treatment. I make the analogy for patients that when, when we treated with the old treatments, it was like shooting with a shotgun, and now we have sniper rifles that are very precise at trying to target the cancer so that we can get better results. And so that has been a great advancement.
In the earlier stages of cancer, now we have multiple options. We have better radiation options; we have better surgical options; we have better ablative therapies; and we have the combination of immunotherapy and surgery now in the early stages of cancer.
These are things that are that are revolutionizing lung cancer care, and the books can't keep up with it. It's very advanced, it's changing every week or every month; every month, (there is) some new information that is changing the options that we can offer patients.
And all these options are starting to have a significant effect on survival. You can see it now — the American Cancer Society data that came out earlier this year (showing that) cancer mortality in the United States is going down. That's a big part from people smoking less earlier detection and better treatments. And that's something that, for lung cancer, we had a hard time offering for a long time.
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