The future of lung cancer treatment is here and it's the standard of care at the Center for Lung Cancer at Orange Coast Medical Center. "We've made great progress in treating many types of cancer," says oncologist-hematologist Jack Jacoub, M.D. "But until recently, lung cancer care lagged behind. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and there have been major breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease."
A Team Approach
One significant advance is a new way of delivering care. "Research shows that patients do better when they're evaluated and treated by a team of specialists," says Dr. Jacoub. "For that reason, we've assembled a group of physicians dedicated solely to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of lung cancer." Patients meet with their team”composed of a pulmonologist, oncologist, thoracic surgeon, radiation oncologist and radiologist”in a special lung cancer clinic. This allows them to interact with every physician involved in their care in a single visit”a process that might otherwise require a series of appointments spread over several weeks. It also ensures that patients can actively participate in the medical decisions affecting them.
In addition, a multidisciplinary team of specialists meets weekly to assess each case and offer recommendations for the best treatment. "Lung cancer is complex and therapy is often complicated," Dr. Jacoub says. "There is a tremendous benefit in having a group of experts come together to discuss each patient."
The Right Diagnosis
Through every phase of their care, patients receive support and guidance from a thoracic oncology nurse specialist. "A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming," Dr. Jacoub explains. "People have so much to deal with that they shouldn't have to worry about navigating the medical system. We do everything possible to ease their way through the process."
The first step is an accurate diagnosis. The Center for Lung Cancer offers advanced diagnostic imaging tests. This includes PET/CT scans, which can identify the chemical activity of cancer cells and detect the exact location of a tumor. Combined, these tests can indicate whether a biopsy is necessary. Previously, all biopsies for lung cancer were performed surgically. But now, a minimally invasive procedure called an endobronchial ultrasound-guided fine-needle biopsy (EBUS) is available. The information derived from the PET/CT scan and EBUS-guided biopsy determines the extent and type of the cancer and helps the lung cancer team plan the best course of treatment.
An operation to remove the tumor is the primary treatment for many people with lung cancer. Less invasive procedures are used whenever possible. One of the most significant is video-assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS, which is performed through three small incisions instead of a single large incision in the chest. Patients also have access to leading-edge lung cancer clinical trials, enabling them to receive chemotherapeutic treatments not widely available.
Major Breakthroughs in Diagnosis and Treatment
In recent years, there have been major breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Dr. Jacoub is especially optimistic about targeted drugs for certain lung cancer patients. Rather than attacking all the rapidly growing cells in the body, targeted treatments focus only on certain functions that cause cancerous tumors to grow. "The paradigm has shifted from routine chemotherapy to individualized treatments," he says. Radiation therapy is also used in about half of all lung cancer cases.
"We're a state-of-the-art hospital with an extraordinary lung cancer program," says Dr. Jacoub. "Our team approach provides patients with the highest level of comprehensive care in a compassionate environment."