Cancer Featured

Advances in Lung Cancer Treatment: Changing the Lung Cancer Story

Written by Stacey Robinson

Lung cancer remains the leading contributor for cancer-related deaths for men and women, yet it is often overlooked—due to stigma and attribution with smoking—while breast cancer and colon cancer, for example, receive more fundraising and advocacy. New advances in treatments outline why it is time to acknowledge, update, and adjust this perspective.

Rates of lung cancer are decreasing, and strategies such as enhanced screening and detection methods can lead to an earlier diagnosis, which can result in better patient outcomes. Recognizing these improvements (in addition to decreased incidence of cigarette smoking), enhanced treatments, and the latest forms of radiation technologies, Sunnybrook experts recently reiterated the White Ribbon Project’s message that it is indeed “time to change the lung cancer story.”

The White Ribbon Project’s advocacy is based on promoting lung cancer awareness, in addition to altering the public perception of the disease rooted in years of misleading campaigns. At the last Sunnybrook Speaker Series event, guest presenters Surgical Oncologist Dr. Calvin Law (Chief of the Odette Cancer Centre), Radiation Oncologist Dr. Alexander Louie, Respirologist Dr. Harvey Wong, and Thoracic Surgeon Dr. Negar Ahmadi highlighted the advances in treating lung problems and malignancies that have contributed to a significant improvement in outcomes over the past few decades.

Innovations in Lung Cancer Treatments

Innovations in cancer treatment include various new trials taking place at Sunnybrook that involve SBRT (Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy). New surgical approaches for treating early cancers are also available, and becoming more minimally invasive, including robotic surgery, and removing smaller portions of diseased lung (i.e., segmentectomy rather than lobectomy).

At Sunnybrook, outpatient Interventional Pulmonology programs such as LDAP (Lung Diagnostic Assessment Program), are helping to expedite the work of patients with suspicious findings for lung cancer. This in turn results in quicker cancer treatments for patients, resulting in better patient outcomes. Minimally invasive methods are now available to confirm the diagnosis of lung cancer (i.e., scopes with ultrasound capabilities, in conjunction with navigation software, result in a painless and incisionless tissue sampling). While these innovations are currently in use, there are also newer technologies (i.e., Robotic Bronchoscopy) that are not yet available in Canada, but are being actively investigated and explored internationally.

Minimally invasive interventions are also available to manage complications related to lung cancer such as airway dilatation and the debulking of tumors from central airways. Another outpatient Interventional Pulmonology program, the EPIC (Effusion Procedural Interprofessional Clinic), inserts indwelling catheters so patients can have the fluid that forms around the lung drained in the comfort of their own home, rather than requiring frequent visits to the hospital.

Positive Outcomes from New Lung Cancer Innovations

• Enhanced treatment for patients
• Improved patient support and home care collaboration
• Faster treatment of cancer complications
• Increase in minimally invasive removals
• Enriched patient experience

Early Screening Saves Lives

Those between the ages of 55 and 74, with a current or former history of smoking (or who have quit smoking within last 15 years), are advised to talk to their primary care physician to see if they quality for lung cancer screening via CT scan. Lung cancer screening saves lives, and Sunnybrook continues to ensure that patients have the latest and most successful options.

Recommended Readings from our Experts

Offering perspectives from lung cancer patients, physicians, and on navigating the Canadian health care system.

• “The Emperor of All Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee
• “When Breath Becomes Air” by Dr. Paul Kalanithi
• “Taking Charge of Cancer” by Dr. David Palma

About the author

Stacey Robinson

Communications Advisor, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre