Tag Archive for: CT scan

Head and Neck Cancer | Key Factors Affecting Treatment Decisions

Head and Neck Cancer | Key Factors Affecting Treatment Decisions from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are key factors that impact head and neck cancer treatment decisions? Expert Dr. Ezra Cohen discusses the role of imaging tests, individual patient factors, and cancer characteristics in making treatment decisions. 

Dr. Ezra Cohen is a medical oncologist, head and neck cancer researcher and Chief Medical Officer of Oncology at Tempus Labs.

Download Resource Guide

See More from Evolve Head & Neck Cancer

Related Resources:

Head and Neck Cancer Research | How Innovation Leads to Advances in Care

Head and Neck Cancer Research | How Innovation Leads to Advances in Care

Head and Neck Cancer Clinical Trials | What Are the Benefits

Head and Neck Cancer Clinical Trials | What Are the Benefits?

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment and Research Updates

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment and Research Updates

Transcript:

Katherine:

How is a path decided then or determined for an individual patient? Is there key lab testing that can impact prognosis and treatment options? 

Dr. Cohen:

Once a patient comes to the attention of the team, and that will usually be accompanied by some sort of biopsy, some sort of pathological diagnosis to confirm that indeed, we’re dealing with let’s say, squamous cell carcinoma. Then the next thing we want to do is we want to stage the disease. And what that means is basically we want to know as much as possible, or accurately as possible, where the cancer is and how big it is.  

So, that would almost always involve scans, usually CT scans, sometimes a PET scan. And we can talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Sometimes an MRI in certain situations. But suffice it to say some sort of scan. Some sort of imaging that can tell us where the cancer is, how big it is, if there are any lymph nodes involved and if that cancer has spread beyond the head and neck area.

Once we stage the disease, most patients, and I think certainly most patients should be discussed, their pace, that is, should be discussed at a multidisciplinary tumor board. Where, again, all the specialists convene at the same time, and really go over all the data that are available on that individual and come up with a treatment recommendation.  

That treatment recommendation can be a single modality. So, some small tumors can just be addressed by surgery alone, or radiation therapy alone. But, for more advanced tumors, it is often all three modalities: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. And the way they’re sequenced, the way they’re implemented, should be individualized for that specific patient. Again, with those two goals in mind: to cure the cancer and to preserve function.   

Katherine:

What else could guide a treatment decision? For instance, a patient’s co-morbidity, their age, things like that? 

Dr. Cohen:

All of those things. 

Katherine:

Yeah. 

Dr. Cohen:

So, beyond – and those are things of course that we would consider in the discussion, not only at the tumor board but of course with the patient. We know that the therapy that we often recommend is quite aggressive and toxic.  

Now, the justification for that is that we’re going to try to cure the cancer. And, so we think, and of course we discuss this with the patient, that putting the patient through this course of treatment is worthwhile, makes sense, because at the end of it, the goal is for the cancer to be gone. Now, not all patients will agree with that and of course, we, based on comorbidities and age and something we call performance status, we also want to make sure that the patient can get through this aggressive treatment.

Let me just go on a bit of a tangent and describe the therapy for a patient with local advanced head and neck cancer. It would involve about six to seven weeks of radiation, given Monday to Friday. Usually either weekly, or every three-week chemotherapy depending on the chemotherapy chosen.  

And possibly even surgery either before or after the combined chemotherapy and radiation. And so, we’re talking about at least a three-month course of treatment going from the start to recovery. Another three months of side effects that are less intense but still there. And it’s a lot for patients to go through. Patients and their caregivers.

And so, if we feel that there’s a serious comorbidity that would not allow the patient to do that, we sometimes have to alter treatment so that obviously, we don’t want to harm the patient with our treatment. Certainly we don’t want to put them in a life-threatening situation. So, we do have to take those things into account. The good thing about all this – or I guess the silver lining, if you will, is that these toxicities get better.   

Patients recover. So, what I tell patients is we’re going to put you through hell, but at the end of it, I want to be sitting across from you and saying the cancer is gone, and you’re swallowing, and you’re talking normally. 

Essential Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Essential Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What tests are essential for patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC)? Dr. Triparna Sen defines small cell lung cancer and reviews the testing that should take place following a diagnosis.

Dr. Triparna Sen is an associate professor in the department of oncological sciences and co-director of the Lung Cancer PDX Platform at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Learn more about Dr. Sen.

See More from Thrive Small Cell Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Expert Advice for Patients With Small Cell Lung Cancer

Expert Advice for Patients With Small Cell Lung Cancer

Advances in Small Cell Lung Cancer Research | Hope for the Future

Advances in Small Cell Lung Cancer Research | Hope for the Future

Transcript:

Dr. Sen:

I’m Dr. Triparna Sen. I’m an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine. I’m also the co-director of the Lung Cancer PDX program here at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. I am the lead of a very translational research laboratory. Our goal is to find novel and effective therapeutic strategies for patients with lung cancer.  

Katherine:

Thank you for that. We’re so glad to have you with us today. Would you define small cell lung cancer for our audience?  

Dr. Sen:

Of course. So, one of the main research areas in my lab is to try to understand the biology of this very aggressive form of lung cancer. Having said that, as you all may be aware that lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer related mortality.  

Lung cancer can be of two types, non-small cell and small cell. So, small cell is a very high-grade neuroendocrine tumor. And it is a very aggressive tumor.   

The name is derived because the size of the cells that you see under the microscope is very small. So, it was originally called old cell carcinoma, and now it is called small cell lung cancer. What you need to remember about this disease is that it is about 15 percent of lung cancer diagnosis. It is very highly metastatic. It is often associated with a long history of smoking.   

Katherine:

Okay. What testing should take place following a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer?  

Dr. Sen:

The symptoms can include various things like coughing, labored breathing, or even bleeding during coughing. What happens then is the initial diagnosis actually happens through some sort of contrast enhanced CT or PET CT. Also, a confirmatory test that happens through immunohistochemistry with H&E. That is  how we look at the histopathological features of the cancer. So once it is confirmed to be small cell lung cancer, then additional tests may happen through tumor biopsy where the doctor then confirms the stage of the tumor and how much the disease has spread.  

 So, there may be biopsies taken from the lung and from other regions of the body to determine how much the disease has spread.  

PODCAST: What Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment is Right for You?

 

What’s the best approach for YOUR lung cancer? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul discusses the importance of engaging in your lung cancer care decisions, shares advice for working with your team to determine a treatment approach, and reviews factors that affect therapy options. Dr. Preeshagul also provides an update on the latest research and clinical trials.

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul is a thoracic medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Preeshagul.

Download Program Resource Guide

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today, we’ll discuss the latest advances in non-small cell lung cancer care as part of our Insist series, which encourages patients to play an active role and insist on better care. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Isabel Preeshagul. Dr. Preeshagul, it’s so good to have you with us. Thank you. Would you introduce yourself? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes. Thank you so much for having me and for the very kind introduction. My name’s Isabel Preeshagul. I am a Thoracic Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and it is a huge honor to be here with you today. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, we’re so glad to have you with us. I’d like to start with a question pertaining to our series title, Insist. Why is it essential for patients to collaborate with their providers on care treatment decisions? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, collaborating is so important, right? I always tell my patients this is not a dictatorship, right? This is a collaborative effort where I’m here to guide you, but you are the captain of the ship. 

You are the one that needs to make all of the decisions, and I’m here to make sure that the ship goes in a smooth direction, so making sure we have open lines of communication that the patients and their caregivers feel comfortable talking to me and my team and also vice versa and that we trust each other. It’s so important because we are going for a marathon, right? We’re not going for a sprint. This is a long-term relationship, whether we’re treating for cure or we’re treating you with palliative intent and it’s treatable but not curable. We’re going to be following with each other for a long time.  

Katherine Banwell:

A lung cancer healthcare team, of course, consists of a number of different providers. Would you tell us about the various members on a team? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Sure. So, there is – there are the people that do the scheduling, that make sure that the CAT scan is scheduled, that the MRI is done, your chemo gets scheduled, all of that. The schedulers are super important and an integral part of our team.  

And then we also have our office coordinators  that answers the phone calls and passes along the messages and assists with scheduling and sort of sets expectations and is the face of the practice. Then you have an office practice nurse or an oncology practice nurse who is the doctor’s right hand, making sure that the patients get proper chemotherapy teaches, making sure that they understand about possible side effects, risks versus benefits, making sure medications are up to date, assessing symptoms.  

They are sort of the front line when it comes to any patient call they’re triaging, and they’re escalating or deescalating. That would be the office practice nurse. And then you have an advanced care practitioner, an APP. You either have a nurse practitioner or a PA that’s working with you that’s sometimes seeing patients independently, sometimes putting chemotherapy orders, you know, really serving as almost as another doctor. 

If for some reason there is something that the doctor’s not available to do, the doctor needs in a pinch, or my patients that are almost at long-term follow-up that are doing great that are just kind of coasting, I will share with my NP and make sure that they know her just as well as they know me. And sometimes there’s a fellow or there’s a resident or there’s a med student that’s part of the team as well because see one, do one, teach one. It’s really important to teach those that are coming after you and serve as mentors and really include them in part of the team and part of the decision-making. And then you have the doctor that just kind of oversees everything.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course. How would you define treatment goals for people with lung cancer? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the goal of treatment, I think, is really contingent upon someone’s stage, but it’s also contingent upon what’s important to the patient, right? So, we have patients that are stage I all the way to stage IIIC that we treat with intention to cure.

And patients that have stage IV disease, it’s treatable but not curable. So, I am very transparent with that as long as I have the information to have that discussion. With that being said, there are some patients with stage IIIdisease or stage I disease that don’t really want treatment and want to focus on quality of life. And that’s okay too. And in which case, you know, at some point, their cancer will likely progress. How quickly or when that will happen, we don’t know. Could they pass from something else? It’s possible. But you really need to talk about what’s important to the patient, because it’s not always cut and dry.  

Katherine Banwell:

As you mentioned, Dr. Preeshagul, there are several different support members on a team. What would you say to patients or even care partners who can sometimes feel like they’re bothering their healthcare team with their questions and comments? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do get that concern a lot. And I always say, “I’m here for you 24/7. And, if it’s not me, it’s someone that’s just as qualified to answer your questions no matter what.” 

“And I would rather get a phone call at 3:00 a.m. than get a phone call at 9:00 a.m., and you need to go to the hospital right now or God forbid something happened. I get a phone call from someone in the ICU that you went overnight and terrible things happened. So, I want the phone calls to come through to keep you out of the hospital and keep you from going south. So, call me.” And I never try to – I don’t try to outline contingency plans or criteria of what would warrant a call, because then you end up getting in trouble.  

I always just tell my patient, “Think about how you’re feeling now in front of me. If you’re feeling any different than how you feel at this very moment, call me.”  

Katherine Banwell:

Good advice. I’d like to turn to the clinical side of non-small cell lung cancer. What tests help you identify the type and stage of lung cancer?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Obviously, you need a CAT scan. You need a CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and you need an MRI brain and a PET scan.  

Those are really the gold standards for determining clinical staging. In regards to pathologic staging, it’s really important to have tissue samplings. So, you biopsy a site of disease that’s concerning to you. If it looks like there’s only disease in the chest, you want to biopsy the site where there’s the tumor, and then you talk with your thoracic surgery or pulmonary team to determine the best way to sample the mediastinum for full staging.  

Katherine Banwell:

Why is an accurate diagnosis so important?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, an accurate diagnosis is so important because lung cancer is by no means black and white anymore. There are so many histologic subtypes that we are learning about. There are so many different molecular drivers that we are learning about. So, making sure you have the right diagnosis, full and next-generation sequencing testing, all of the imaging that you need could really make or break your treatment plan.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Preeshagul, let’s talk about biomarker testing. How is biomarker testing for lung cancer different from hereditary genetic testing?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do do hereditary genetic testing for lung cancer patients as well. So, I think let’s backtrack a little bit. When you’re doing on a patient, there’s germline mutations and there’s somatic mutations. And germline mutations are mutations that you might get from Mom and Dad that they got from their parents and so on and so forth that you could give to your children or your brother and sister or whatever. So, that’s germline testing that could be passed along.  

That would be like BRCA or any other APC gene, but we are learning more and more that there are mutations in lung cancer that do have a hereditary aspect to them. So, we are learning now that while we do somatic testing, which is to find a mutation that just spontaneously happened in your tumor all on its own, it’s really important to pair that with germline testing to make sure that there isn’t some kind of heritable mutation that’s also driving this lung cancer.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned hereditary genetic testing. Should family members of people with lung cancer undergo genetic testing then just to be reassured? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if there is a germline mutation, then they should – the family members should be referred to a geneticist to have that discussion.   

Katherine Banwell:

What are common lung cancer biomarkers? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we have nine biomarkers within approval right now, but there are so many. There’s more than I could even talk about today. But some of the more common ones are EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET exon 14. You have KRAS, KRAS-G12C, which is a newer one. We have NTRK. We have RET. The list goes on, HER2. I could talk for – there’s not enough time on this Zoom video to talk about all of the mutations. But there are nine mutations with approvals as of now to date, this very moment. That could change tomorrow.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course, it could. How do biomarkers in lung cancer affect treatment options for lung cancer patients? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it used to only be in stage IV, but now we are learning that biomarker testing is really important from the get-go because we have induction or neoadjuvant protocols that are looking at giving targeted therapy before patients go to surgery. 

We know that there’s FDA approval for patients to get targeted therapy after surgery, and there’s a survival advantage there. So, make sure that you have next-generation sequencing testing regardless of your stage.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. That’s good advice. So, we’ve heard how testing and a patient’s individual disease can lead to more targeted options. And you just mentioned targeted therapies. How do they work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, there’s many different targeted therapies that we have. Some of given as an infusion. For HER2, for example, we have TDXD, and we have T-DM1. TDXD is the only drug that’s FDA-approved in this setting. There are clinical trials looking at T-DM1. For EGFR Exon 20, we have another infusional drug called amivantamab (Rybrevant). For EGFR Exon 19 and Exon 21, we have a pill called osimertinib (Tagrisso). For KRAS, there’s a pill. For most of the driver alterations, it’s a pill, but some of them it does require infusional therapy. 

But these are therapies that are targeted at the cells that harbor that mutation.  

Katherine Banwell:

Let’s turn to immunotherapy. What is it, and how does it work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is basically teaching your body to recognize cancer as foreign. So, when you have – I always kind of use this hand model. So, basically, a normal cell has, let’s say, three prongs. And then sometimes what happens is cancer will grow a marker called PD-L1 that makes it hide from the immune system. So, the body thinks that this is a normal cell. So, what immunotherapy does is it comes up and it sort of puts a cap on that PD-L1 so that the cell looks foreign again and the body can attack that cell and get rid of it. So, it’s almost like ramping up your immune system to recognize that marker and get rid of that cell. 

Katherine Banwell:

What is the regimen for immunotherapy, and how often is treatment administered? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is approved in the neoadjuvant setting, which means before chemotherapy. It’s approved after chemotherapy, and it’s approved in the stage IV setting. There are many different regimens and many different dosings and many different drugs. But it’s typically given in your veins, either once every three weeks or once every four weeks for a certain amount of time. If it’s given in a curative setting and it’s given indefinitely or until there’s disease progression or intolerance in the stage IV setting.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s touch upon the side effects of these types of treatment. You’ve mentioned that there are so many, but what are some of the major side effects, and how are they managed? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Side effects of immunotherapy can include pneumonitis, which is inflammation of the lungs, any kind of endocrinopathy like issues with your thyroid, issues with your pancreas like diabetes.  

It can cause colitis, which is diarrhea, inflammation of the colon, hepatitis, inflammation of the liver. It can cause cerebritis, inflammation of the brain. It can cause arthritis or arthralgias, inflammation of the bones. And it can also cause rash and fatigue. 

Typically, if it’s the thyroid, it’s managed with thyroid replacement hormone or a drug that would calm down the thyroid if it’s overactive. Pneumonitis is steroids. Hepatitis is sometimes treated with steroids. Colitis, steroids typically. Steroids usually come somewhere in there, usually not with the endocrinopathies, but the other itis’s, it’s typically – we start with steroids and go up from there. And the goal is to really recognize these toxicities before they become a problem and just at the glimmer of them just starting.  

Katherine Banwell:

So, would you consider these treatments to be personalized medicine then? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it’s personalized in the sense that if someone has a high PD-L1 expression, there may be some data to demonstrate that they may benefit from immunotherapy or have a response. If someone can’t tolerate chemotherapy or is not interested in chemotherapy or has other reasons that may preclude them from getting it, it might be reasonable. So, in that sense, it is considered personalized.  

Katherine Banwell:

How would you define personalized medicine? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

To me, personalized medicine takes into account the biologic makeup of a patient’s disease like if they have a mutation and what their PD-L1 status is, what the histologic makeup of it. What’s their stage? And then, on the other hand, what’s important to that patient? If they’re a tailor, you want to make sure you’re not giving them a medication that’s going to cause neuropathy, so they can’t use their hands.  

If they enjoy playing the harp or the piano, same thing. If their goal is to continue to run marathons, you may want to avoid something that’s going to cause inflammation of the lungs and risk them for pneumonitis. Tailoring to make sure that the treatment is part of their life but does not become their life. 

Katherine Banwell:

If the test results don’t reveal one of the biomarkers you’ve been talking about, what other treatments are available?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if I don’t have an FDA approval, then sometimes we look to see if there is a clinical trial in our early phase drug development program, and we talk about a clinical trial. If there’s no clinical trial and I don’t have an FDA approval, then we have to talk about what options are considered standard of care and how to make that work into the patient’s lifestyle.  

Katherine Banwell:

What about surgery? When is it used?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Surgery is typically used in the curative setting with early-stage disease. We’re really trying to give patients some kind of chemotherapy or some kind of treatment before they go to surgery. It’s shown to improve outcomes. It just gives us a en vivo view of how the tumor will respond to the treatment. So, we typically use surgery in the curative setting. And, at times, it’s appropriate to use surgery for a metastasectomy when you have one little site that’s growing. Sometimes after a tumor board discussion, it might be reasonable to resect that area.  

Katherine Banwell:

Is radiation still used? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Same thing. It can be used in the curative setting, typically for patients with stage IIIB or stage IIIC disease and combined with chemotherapy patients that are not considered surgical candidates, or it’s used in the palliative setting when patients have painful metastases. 

Katherine Banwell:

Would you define the B and C? You’ve mentioned that a couple of times.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. 

Katherine Banwell:

We’re used to hearing Stage 1, 2, 3, 4. But what’s a stage IIIB and a stage IIIC? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. Sure. Sure. So, it does get a little bit into the weeds here about the size of the tumor and the amount of lymph nodes and location of the lymph nodes. But basically, stage IIIA is considered resectable. That means – that could be the size of the tumor with no lymph nodes, or it could be a smaller tumor with a lymph node on the same side as the disease. Stage IIIB would be a lymph node right underneath the windpipe at the station 7. And stage IIIB also includes lymph nodes that have crossed over to the contralateral side. And stage IIIC would be lymph nodes that are maybe up at the contralateral supraclavicular space. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Do treatment options change if the lung cancer returns? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes, they do change depending on if this is the same tumor type that’s come back. It’s typically a different treatment algorithm, yeah.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. And should biomarker testing be done again if a relapse occurs? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

100 percent. Because it guides everything about a patient’s treatment. It’s super important.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. What are you excited about right now in lung cancer research? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I am excited and overwhelmed by the fact that we have so many approvals and so much exciting data that was just presented at ASCO and World Lung and ESMO that it’s next to impossible to keep up. And I’m happy that we have that problem, and I’m happy that the patients have – there’s a spotlight on lung cancer when we were in the shadows. And now, I think we have the spotlight. 

And all of these approvals, you know, with it being Lung Cancer Awareness Month as well, I think is just so important. Just to make sure that we get the knowledge of these new approvals out there though, that is another struggle. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, are there any current clinical trials that look promising to you? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah, I think there are many clinical trials. In the induction setting, there was some data that was just presented on ALINA looking at adjuvant alectinib (Alecensa). We just had a – we have approval for adjuvant osimertinib (Tagrisso) and the ADAURA trial.  

But we are learning more and more that as these targeted therapies have approval in stage IV, we’re trialing them in stage III, and then we’re going to trial them in earlier stages and earlier settings. So, this has been the pattern of how drugs get approved. So, yes, there’s lots of exciting data coming through. 

Katherine Banwell:

That’s excellent. Can you talk about antibody drug conjugates and where they fit into lung cancer care? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. That’s a great question. I don’t think anyone knows the answer as to where they fit in just yet. 

We have probably over 300 antibody drug conjugates that are in development right now. And one of the more common ones that we use is trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu), or TDXD, which is used in patients that harbor HER2 alterations in the stage IV lung cancer setting. It is basically almost like a Trojan horse. So, you have this antibody.  

It’s typically IgG1, immunoglobulin. And then you have a linker, and then at the end of that linker is the warhead or the chemotherapy agent. So, the antibody comes in towards the cancer cell looking very innocent. It binds to the cancer cell. And, once it binds, then everyone inside the Trojan horse or this warhead rush into the cell and get to do its damage. So, it’s a totally different mechanism. We’re trying to outsmart some of the bypass mechanisms that cancer cells develop. And this may be the new wave, but stay tuned, more to come.  

Katherine Banwell:

Right. So, it’s promising.  How can patients find out more about current clinical trials? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, you can always ask your healthcare practitioner if there are any clinical trials at the institution that you’re at, but clinicaltrials.gov has all the clinical trials that are available nationally and internationally.  

You just type in your disease type. You can type in a couple keywords, EGFR maybe or ROS1 or stage IV, something along those lines, and then it should populate a list of clinical trials and what institutions have them open, if they’re still accruing or if they’re not, and a contact on that trial.  

Katherine Banwell:

If a patient is interested in a clinical trial, what kinds of questions should they be asking their healthcare about the trial? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the first question to ask is, “Do we have any clinical trials that are appropriate for me?” If the answer is yes, “Are they appropriate for me now, or are they appropriate for me if what I’m on right now is not working?” 

So, trying to figure out where that will be, and if they are appropriate for you now, how can I get evaluated, and how can we get things underway? 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. What would you say to patients who are interested in participating in a clinical trial, but they’re nervous about it?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I think one thing that I love about being on a clinical trial is that there are more eyes are on you, because we are looking to get something approved, and we are just watching every single little granular detail. In a way, it’s almost like you’re being more micromanaged than if you were on standard of care because of just how many stops and checks there are, how many eyes are looking at your labs after the doctor and the nurse and the nurse practitioner, and the fellow take a look at everything. It’s 10 other people. So, it’s almost like it’s extra safe because of all of that. It’s exciting because you are hopefully getting tomorrow’s treatment today, right? 

You’re trailblazing the way for other people after you. So, I think it’s exciting, but, of course, it’s nerve-wracking. It’s something new. You don’t know if it’s going to work. But I have to believe that the way that clinical trials are designed now and the clinical trials that we choose to open here, we really hope are going to be pushing the space forward. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. I’d like to get to a few questions that we received from audience members prior to the program. How do you help a family member that is an overwhelmed caregiver but refuses help? Any tips on how to provide support to this person?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I mean, I think we see caregiver burnout thousands of times a day, unfortunately, and the first thing is knowing how to recognize it. And the second most important thing is taking the time away from the visit with the patient to address the burnt-out caregiver, because there is not enough time in any visit to ever – there’s never enough time in my mind to spend with a patient.  

I’m always pulled in a thousand different directions. And I think we all feel that. But taking the appropriate time to sit down and to say, “Hey. Listen. I recognize that you’re burnt out. I can see it. Who is in your corner helping you?” And just directing focus away from the patient just for a moment and to really focus on that caregiver and to rely on the social work team and the case manager and the support groups that your institution may have and to make sure that they know about those resources. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. Here’s another question we received. “Can you share more information regarding treatments available for stage IV lung cancer and their side effects?” 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

It depends on if this is non-small cell or small cell. It depends on if you have a driver alteration or not. So, I think that is a little bit challenging to talk about in just one session. But basically, you’re probably looking at some kind of targeted therapy if you have a mutation versus standard of care if you don’t have a targeted mutation versus a clinical trial. And I think those are kind of like the big baskets.  

Katherine Banwell:

When is a second opinion necessary? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul: A second opinion is necessary anytime you want a second opinion.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

There is no right or wrong time, any time. You’re just not jiving with your oncologist after the first day you met them, second opinion. You’re at the end of the line and you really want toknow more, second opinion. You’ve met two other doctors. You’re not jiving, third opinion. It’s always appropriate anytime you want. 

Katherine Banwell:

So, the patient shouldn’t feel obligated to stay with that one provider? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Never. Never, never, never, never, never. No. Please don’t feel that way. There are no hard feelings. And, if there are, that’s not the right oncologist for you. It needs to feel like a perfect friendship. And, if it’s not that, it’s not the right thing.    

Katherine Banwell:

Before we close, Dr. Preeshagul, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What would you say to the audience about the future of lung cancer care and treatment? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I do think that the future is bright because, as I mentioned, there is now this light that is shining in the lung cancer space. And things are getting approved. and discoveries are getting made faster than we can even keep up, which is exciting and overwhelming and daunting. But I am happy that, finally, this space is taking off, so I feel optimistic.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. All right. Well, I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, Dr. Preeshagul.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Thank you so much for having me. These were wonderful questions, and I look forward to many more discussions with you. Thank you.  

Katherine Banwell:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for being with us today.   

What Essential Testing Reveals About Your Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

What Essential Testing Reveals About Your Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do lung cancer test results reveal to your healthcare team about your disease? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul provides an overview of essential testing for lung cancer and explains the difference between germline and somatic mutations.

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul is a thoracic medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Preeshagul.

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Insist on Better Lung Cancer Care | Tips for Essential Communication

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options | Personalizing Therapy

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment Options | Personalizing Therapy

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment | Clinical Trials and Research Updates

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment | Clinical Trials and Research Updates


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

I’d like to turn to the clinical side of non-small cell lung cancer. What tests help you identify the type and stage of lung cancer? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Obviously, you need a CAT scan. You need a CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and you need an MRI brain and a PET scan.  

Those are really the gold standards for determining clinical staging. In regards to pathologic staging, it’s really important to have tissue samplings. So, you biopsy a site of disease that’s concerning to you. If it looks like there’s only disease in the chest, you want to biopsy the site where there’s the tumor, and then you talk with your thoracic surgery or pulmonary team to determine the best way to sample the mediastinum for full staging.  

Katherine Banwell:

Why is an accurate diagnosis so important? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, an accurate diagnosis is so important, because lung cancer is by no means black and white anymore. There are so many histologic subtypes that we are learning about. There are so many different molecular drivers that we are learning about. So, making sure you have the right diagnosis, full and next-generation sequencing testing, all of the imaging that you need could really make or break your treatment plan.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Preeshagul, let’s talk about biomarker testing. How is biomarker testing for lung cancer different from hereditary genetic testing? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do do hereditary genetic testing for lung cancer patients as well. So, I think let’s backtrack a little bit. When you’re doing on a patient, there are germline mutations and there are somatic mutations. And germline mutations are mutations that you might get from Mom and Dad that they got from their parents and so on and so forth that you could give to your children or your brother and sister or whatever. So, that’s germline testing that could be passed along.  

That would be like BRCA or any other APC gene, but we are learning more and more that there are mutations in lung cancer that do have a hereditary aspect to them. So, we are learning now that while we do somatic testing, which is to find a mutation that just spontaneously happened in your tumor all on its own, it’s really important to pair that with germline testing to make sure that there isn’t some kind of heritable mutation that’s also driving this lung cancer.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned hereditary genetic testing. Should family members of people with lung cancer undergo genetic testing then just to be reassured? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if there is a germline mutation, then they should – the family members should be referred to a geneticist to have that discussion.  

Katherine Banwell:

What are common lung cancer biomarkers? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we have nine biomarkers within approval right now, but there are so many. There’s more than I could even talk about today. But some of the more common ones are EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET exon 14. You have KRAS, KRAS-G12C, which is a newer one. We have NTRK. We have RET. The list goes on, HER2. I could talk for – there’s not enough time on this Zoom video to talk about all of the mutations. But there are nine mutations with approvals as of now to date, this very moment. That could change tomorrow.   

What Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment is Right for You?

What Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment is Right for You? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the best approach for YOUR lung cancer? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul discusses the importance of engaging in your lung cancer care decisions, shares advice for working with your team to determine a treatment approach, and reviews factors that affect therapy options. Dr. Preeshagul also provides an update on the latest research and clinical trials.

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul is a thoracic medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Preeshagul.

Download Program Resource Guide

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider 

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments 


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today, we’ll discuss the latest advances in non-small cell lung cancer care as part of our Insist series, which encourages patients to play an active role and insist on better care. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Isabel Preeshagul. Dr. Preeshagul, it’s so good to have you with us. Thank you. Would you introduce yourself? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes. Thank you so much for having me and for the very kind introduction. My name’s Isabel Preeshagul. I am a Thoracic Medical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and it is a huge honor to be here with you today. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, we’re so glad to have you with us. I’d like to start with a question pertaining to our series title, Insist. Why is it essential for patients to collaborate with their providers on care treatment decisions? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, collaborating is so important, right? I always tell my patients this is not a dictatorship, right? This is a collaborative effort where I’m here to guide you, but you are the captain of the ship. 

You are the one that needs to make all of the decisions, and I’m here to make sure that the ship goes in a smooth direction, so making sure we have open lines of communication that the patients and their caregivers feel comfortable talking to me and my team and also vice versa and that we trust each other. It’s so important because we are going for a marathon, right? We’re not going for a sprint. This is a long-term relationship, whether we’re treating for cure or we’re treating you with palliative intent and it’s treatable but not curable. We’re going to be following with each other for a long time.  

Katherine Banwell:

A lung cancer healthcare team, of course, consists of a number of different providers. Would you tell us about the various members on a team? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Sure. So, there is – there are the people that do the scheduling, that make sure that the CAT scan is scheduled, that the MRI is done, your chemo gets scheduled, all of that. The schedulers are super important and an integral part of our team.  

And then we also have our office coordinators  that answers the phone calls and passes along the messages and assists with scheduling and sort of sets expectations and is the face of the practice. Then you have an office practice nurse or an oncology practice nurse who is the doctor’s right hand, making sure that the patients get proper chemotherapy teaches, making sure that they understand about possible side effects, risks versus benefits, making sure medications are up to date, assessing symptoms.  

They are sort of the front line when it comes to any patient call they’re triaging, and they’re escalating or deescalating. That would be the office practice nurse. And then you have an advanced care practitioner, an APP. You either have a nurse practitioner or a PA that’s working with you that’s sometimes seeing patients independently, sometimes putting chemotherapy orders, you know, really serving as almost as another doctor. 

If for some reason there is something that the doctor’s not available to do, the doctor needs in a pinch, or my patients that are almost at long-term follow-up that are doing great that are just kind of coasting, I will share with my NP and make sure that they know her just as well as they know me. And sometimes there’s a fellow or there’s a resident or there’s a med student that’s part of the team as well because see one, do one, teach one. It’s really important to teach those that are coming after you and serve as mentors and really include them in part of the team and part of the decision-making. And then you have the doctor that just kind of oversees everything.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course. How would you define treatment goals for people with lung cancer? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the goal of treatment, I think, is really contingent upon someone’s stage, but it’s also contingent upon what’s important to the patient, right? So, we have patients that are stage I all the way to stage IIIC that we treat with intention to cure.

And patients that have stage IV disease, it’s treatable but not curable. So, I am very transparent with that as long as I have the information to have that discussion. With that being said, there are some patients with stage IIIdisease or stage I disease that don’t really want treatment and want to focus on quality of life. And that’s okay too. And in which case, you know, at some point, their cancer will likely progress. How quickly or when that will happen, we don’t know. Could they pass from something else? It’s possible. But you really need to talk about what’s important to the patient, because it’s not always cut and dry.  

Katherine Banwell:

As you mentioned, Dr. Preeshagul, there are several different support members on a team. What would you say to patients or even care partners who can sometimes feel like they’re bothering their healthcare team with their questions and comments? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do get that concern a lot. And I always say, “I’m here for you 24/7. And, if it’s not me, it’s someone that’s just as qualified to answer your questions no matter what.” 

“And I would rather get a phone call at 3:00 a.m. than get a phone call at 9:00 a.m., and you need to go to the hospital right now or God forbid something happened. I get a phone call from someone in the ICU that you went overnight and terrible things happened. So, I want the phone calls to come through to keep you out of the hospital and keep you from going south. So, call me.” And I never try to – I don’t try to outline contingency plans or criteria of what would warrant a call, because then you end up getting in trouble.  

I always just tell my patient, “Think about how you’re feeling now in front of me. If you’re feeling any different than how you feel at this very moment, call me.”  

Katherine Banwell:

Good advice. I’d like to turn to the clinical side of non-small cell lung cancer. What tests help you identify the type and stage of lung cancer?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Obviously, you need a CAT scan. You need a CAT scan of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and you need an MRI brain and a PET scan.  

Those are really the gold standards for determining clinical staging. In regards to pathologic staging, it’s really important to have tissue samplings. So, you biopsy a site of disease that’s concerning to you. If it looks like there’s only disease in the chest, you want to biopsy the site where there’s the tumor, and then you talk with your thoracic surgery or pulmonary team to determine the best way to sample the mediastinum for full staging.  

Katherine Banwell:

Why is an accurate diagnosis so important?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, an accurate diagnosis is so important because lung cancer is by no means black and white anymore. There are so many histologic subtypes that we are learning about. There are so many different molecular drivers that we are learning about. So, making sure you have the right diagnosis, full and next-generation sequencing testing, all of the imaging that you need could really make or break your treatment plan.  

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Preeshagul, let’s talk about biomarker testing. How is biomarker testing for lung cancer different from hereditary genetic testing?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we do do hereditary genetic testing for lung cancer patients as well. So, I think let’s backtrack a little bit. When you’re doing on a patient, there’s germline mutations and there’s somatic mutations. And germline mutations are mutations that you might get from Mom and Dad that they got from their parents and so on and so forth that you could give to your children or your brother and sister or whatever. So, that’s germline testing that could be passed along.  

That would be like BRCA or any other APC gene, but we are learning more and more that there are mutations in lung cancer that do have a hereditary aspect to them. So, we are learning now that while we do somatic testing, which is to find a mutation that just spontaneously happened in your tumor all on its own, it’s really important to pair that with germline testing to make sure that there isn’t some kind of heritable mutation that’s also driving this lung cancer.  

Katherine Banwell:

You mentioned hereditary genetic testing. Should family members of people with lung cancer undergo genetic testing then just to be reassured? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if there is a germline mutation, then they should – the family members should be referred to a geneticist to have that discussion.   

Katherine Banwell:

What are common lung cancer biomarkers? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, we have nine biomarkers within approval right now, but there are so many. There’s more than I could even talk about today. But some of the more common ones are EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET exon 14. You have KRAS, KRAS-G12C, which is a newer one. We have NTRK. We have RET. The list goes on, HER2. I could talk for – there’s not enough time on this Zoom video to talk about all of the mutations. But there are nine mutations with approvals as of now to date, this very moment. That could change tomorrow.  

Katherine Banwell:

Of course, it could. How do biomarkers in lung cancer affect treatment options for lung cancer patients? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it used to only be in stage IV, but now we are learning that biomarker testing is really important from the get-go because we have induction or neoadjuvant protocols that are looking at giving targeted therapy before patients go to surgery. 

We know that there’s FDA approval for patients to get targeted therapy after surgery, and there’s a survival advantage there. So, make sure that you have next-generation sequencing testing regardless of your stage.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. That’s good advice. So, we’ve heard how testing and a patient’s individual disease can lead to more targeted options. And you just mentioned targeted therapies. How do they work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, there’s many different targeted therapies that we have. Some of given as an infusion. For HER2, for example, we have TDXD, and we have T-DM1. TDXD is the only drug that’s FDA-approved in this setting. There are clinical trials looking at T-DM1. For EGFR Exon 20, we have another infusional drug called amivantamab (Rybrevant). For EGFR Exon 19 and Exon 21, we have a pill called osimertinib (Tagrisso). For KRAS, there’s a pill. For most of the driver alterations, it’s a pill, but some of them it does require infusional therapy. 

But these are therapies that are targeted at the cells that harbor that mutation.  

Katherine Banwell:

Let’s turn to immunotherapy. What is it, and how does it work? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is basically teaching your body to recognize cancer as foreign. So, when you have – I always kind of use this hand model. So, basically, a normal cell has, let’s say, three prongs. And then sometimes what happens is cancer will grow a marker called PD-L1 that makes it hide from the immune system. So, the body thinks that this is a normal cell. So, what immunotherapy does is it comes up and it sort of puts a cap on that PD-L1 so that the cell looks foreign again and the body can attack that cell and get rid of it. So, it’s almost like ramping up your immune system to recognize that marker and get rid of that cell. 

Katherine Banwell:

What is the regimen for immunotherapy, and how often is treatment administered? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, immunotherapy is approved in the neoadjuvant setting, which means before chemotherapy. It’s approved after chemotherapy, and it’s approved in the stage IV setting. There are many different regimens and many different dosings and many different drugs. But it’s typically given in your veins, either once every three weeks or once every four weeks for a certain amount of time. If it’s given in a curative setting and it’s given indefinitely or until there’s disease progression or intolerance in the stage IV setting.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s touch upon the side effects of these types of treatment. You’ve mentioned that there are so many, but what are some of the major side effects, and how are they managed? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Side effects of immunotherapy can include pneumonitis, which is inflammation of the lungs, any kind of endocrinopathy like issues with your thyroid, issues with your pancreas like diabetes.  

It can cause colitis, which is diarrhea, inflammation of the colon, hepatitis, inflammation of the liver. It can cause cerebritis, inflammation of the brain. It can cause arthritis or arthralgias, inflammation of the bones. And it can also cause rash and fatigue. 

Typically, if it’s the thyroid, it’s managed with thyroid replacement hormone or a drug that would calm down the thyroid if it’s overactive. Pneumonitis is steroids. Hepatitis is sometimes treated with steroids. Colitis, steroids typically. Steroids usually come somewhere in there, usually not with the endocrinopathies, but the other itis’s, it’s typically – we start with steroids and go up from there. And the goal is to really recognize these toxicities before they become a problem and just at the glimmer of them just starting.  

Katherine Banwell:

So, would you consider these treatments to be personalized medicine then? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, it’s personalized in the sense that if someone has a high PD-L1 expression, there may be some data to demonstrate that they may benefit from immunotherapy or have a response. If someone can’t tolerate chemotherapy or is not interested in chemotherapy or has other reasons that may preclude them from getting it, it might be reasonable. So, in that sense, it is considered personalized.  

Katherine Banwell:

How would you define personalized medicine? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

To me, personalized medicine takes into account the biologic makeup of a patient’s disease like if they have a mutation and what their PD-L1 status is, what the histologic makeup of it. What’s their stage? And then, on the other hand, what’s important to that patient? If they’re a tailor, you want to make sure you’re not giving them a medication that’s going to cause neuropathy, so they can’t use their hands.  

If they enjoy playing the harp or the piano, same thing. If their goal is to continue to run marathons, you may want to avoid something that’s going to cause inflammation of the lungs and risk them for pneumonitis. Tailoring to make sure that the treatment is part of their life but does not become their life. 

Katherine Banwell:

If the test results don’t reveal one of the biomarkers you’ve been talking about, what other treatments are available?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, if I don’t have an FDA approval, then sometimes we look to see if there is a clinical trial in our early phase drug development program, and we talk about a clinical trial. If there’s no clinical trial and I don’t have an FDA approval, then we have to talk about what options are considered standard of care and how to make that work into the patient’s lifestyle.  

Katherine Banwell:

What about surgery? When is it used?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Surgery is typically used in the curative setting with early-stage disease. We’re really trying to give patients some kind of chemotherapy or some kind of treatment before they go to surgery. It’s shown to improve outcomes. It just gives us a en vivo view of how the tumor will respond to the treatment. So, we typically use surgery in the curative setting. And, at times, it’s appropriate to use surgery for a metastasectomy when you have one little site that’s growing. Sometimes after a tumor board discussion, it might be reasonable to resect that area.  

Katherine Banwell:

Is radiation still used? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Same thing. It can be used in the curative setting, typically for patients with stage IIIB or stage IIIC disease and combined with chemotherapy patients that are not considered surgical candidates, or it’s used in the palliative setting when patients have painful metastases. 

Katherine Banwell:

Would you define the B and C? You’ve mentioned that a couple of times.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. 

Katherine Banwell:

We’re used to hearing Stage 1, 2, 3, 4. But what’s a stage IIIB and a stage IIIC? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. Sure. Sure. So, it does get a little bit into the weeds here about the size of the tumor and the amount of lymph nodes and location of the lymph nodes. But basically, stage IIIA is considered resectable. That means – that could be the size of the tumor with no lymph nodes, or it could be a smaller tumor with a lymph node on the same side as the disease. Stage IIIB would be a lymph node right underneath the windpipe at the station 7. And stage IIIB also includes lymph nodes that have crossed over to the contralateral side. And stage IIIC would be lymph nodes that are maybe up at the contralateral supraclavicular space. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Do treatment options change if the lung cancer returns? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yes, they do change depending on if this is the same tumor type that’s come back. It’s typically a different treatment algorithm, yeah.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. And should biomarker testing be done again if a relapse occurs? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

100 percent. Because it guides everything about a patient’s treatment. It’s super important.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. What are you excited about right now in lung cancer research? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I am excited and overwhelmed by the fact that we have so many approvals and so much exciting data that was just presented at ASCO and World Lung and ESMO that it’s next to impossible to keep up. And I’m happy that we have that problem, and I’m happy that the patients have – there’s a spotlight on lung cancer when we were in the shadows. And now, I think we have the spotlight. 

And all of these approvals, you know, with it being Lung Cancer Awareness Month as well, I think is just so important. Just to make sure that we get the knowledge of these new approvals out there though, that is another struggle. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, are there any current clinical trials that look promising to you? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah, I think there are many clinical trials. In the induction setting, there was some data that was just presented on ALINA looking at adjuvant alectinib (Alecensa). We just had a – we have approval for adjuvant osimertinib (Tagrisso) and the ADAURA trial.  

But we are learning more and more that as these targeted therapies have approval in stage IV, we’re trialing them in stage III, and then we’re going to trial them in earlier stages and earlier settings. So, this has been the pattern of how drugs get approved. So, yes, there’s lots of exciting data coming through. 

Katherine Banwell:

That’s excellent. Can you talk about antibody drug conjugates and where they fit into lung cancer care? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Yeah. That’s a great question. I don’t think anyone knows the answer as to where they fit in just yet. 

We have probably over 300 antibody drug conjugates that are in development right now. And one of the more common ones that we use is trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu), or TDXD, which is used in patients that harbor HER2 alterations in the stage IV lung cancer setting. It is basically almost like a Trojan horse. So, you have this antibody.  

It’s typically IgG1, immunoglobulin. And then you have a linker, and then at the end of that linker is the warhead or the chemotherapy agent. So, the antibody comes in towards the cancer cell looking very innocent. It binds to the cancer cell. And, once it binds, then everyone inside the Trojan horse or this warhead rush into the cell and get to do its damage. So, it’s a totally different mechanism. We’re trying to outsmart some of the bypass mechanisms that cancer cells develop. And this may be the new wave, but stay tuned, more to come.  

Katherine Banwell:

Right. So, it’s promising.  How can patients find out more about current clinical trials? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, you can always ask your healthcare practitioner if there are any clinical trials at the institution that you’re at, but clinicaltrials.gov has all the clinical trials that are available nationally and internationally.  

You just type in your disease type. You can type in a couple keywords, EGFR maybe or ROS1 or stage IV, something along those lines, and then it should populate a list of clinical trials and what institutions have them open, if they’re still accruing or if they’re not, and a contact on that trial.  

Katherine Banwell:

If a patient is interested in a clinical trial, what kinds of questions should they be asking their healthcare about the trial? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

So, the first question to ask is, “Do we have any clinical trials that are appropriate for me?” If the answer is yes, “Are they appropriate for me now, or are they appropriate for me if what I’m on right now is not working?” 

So, trying to figure out where that will be, and if they are appropriate for you now, how can I get evaluated, and how can we get things underway? 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. What would you say to patients who are interested in participating in a clinical trial, but they’re nervous about it?

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I think one thing that I love about being on a clinical trial is that there are more eyes are on you, because we are looking to get something approved, and we are just watching every single little granular detail. In a way, it’s almost like you’re being more micromanaged than if you were on standard of care because of just how many stops and checks there are, how many eyes are looking at your labs after the doctor and the nurse and the nurse practitioner, and the fellow take a look at everything. It’s 10 other people. So, it’s almost like it’s extra safe because of all of that. It’s exciting because you are hopefully getting tomorrow’s treatment today, right? 

You’re trailblazing the way for other people after you. So, I think it’s exciting, but, of course, it’s nerve-wracking. It’s something new. You don’t know if it’s going to work. But I have to believe that the way that clinical trials are designed now and the clinical trials that we choose to open here, we really hope are going to be pushing the space forward. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. I’d like to get to a few questions that we received from audience members prior to the program. How do you help a family member that is an overwhelmed caregiver but refuses help? Any tips on how to provide support to this person?  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I mean, I think we see caregiver burnout thousands of times a day, unfortunately, and the first thing is knowing how to recognize it. And the second most important thing is taking the time away from the visit with the patient to address the burnt-out caregiver, because there is not enough time in any visit to ever – there’s never enough time in my mind to spend with a patient.  

I’m always pulled in a thousand different directions. And I think we all feel that. But taking the appropriate time to sit down and to say, “Hey. Listen. I recognize that you’re burnt out. I can see it. Who is in your corner helping you?” And just directing focus away from the patient just for a moment and to really focus on that caregiver and to rely on the social work team and the case manager and the support groups that your institution may have and to make sure that they know about those resources. 

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. Here’s another question we received. “Can you share more information regarding treatments available for stage IV lung cancer and their side effects?” 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

It depends on if this is non-small cell or small cell. It depends on if you have a driver alteration or not. So, I think that is a little bit challenging to talk about in just one session. But basically, you’re probably looking at some kind of targeted therapy if you have a mutation versus standard of care if you don’t have a targeted mutation versus a clinical trial. And I think those are kind of like the big baskets.  

Katherine Banwell:

When is a second opinion necessary? Dr. Isabel Preeshagul: A second opinion is necessary anytime you want a second opinion.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

There is no right or wrong time, any time. You’re just not jiving with your oncologist after the first day you met them, second opinion. You’re at the end of the line and you really want toknow more, second opinion. You’ve met two other doctors. You’re not jiving, third opinion. It’s always appropriate anytime you want. 

Katherine Banwell:

So, the patient shouldn’t feel obligated to stay with that one provider? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Never. Never, never, never, never, never. No. Please don’t feel that way. There are no hard feelings. And, if there are, that’s not the right oncologist for you. It needs to feel like a perfect friendship. And, if it’s not that, it’s not the right thing.    

Katherine Banwell:

Before we close, Dr. Preeshagul, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What would you say to the audience about the future of lung cancer care and treatment? 

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

I do think that the future is bright because, as I mentioned, there is now this light that is shining in the lung cancer space. And things are getting approved. and discoveries are getting made faster than we can even keep up, which is exciting and overwhelming and daunting. But I am happy that, finally, this space is taking off, so I feel optimistic.  

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. All right. Well, I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, Dr. Preeshagul.  

Dr. Isabel Preeshagul:

Thank you so much for having me. These were wonderful questions, and I look forward to many more discussions with you. Thank you.  

Katherine Banwell:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for being with us today.   

Understanding Follicular Lymphoma Disease Progression Symptoms and Monitoring

Understanding Follicular Lymphoma Disease Progression Symptoms and Monitoring from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How are follicular lymphoma symptoms and disease progression monitored? Expert Dr. Sameh Gaballa explains follicular lymphoma disease transformation, symptoms to be on the lookout for, and frequency of monitoring during watch and wait.

Dr. Sameh Gaballa is a hematologist/oncologist specializing in treating lymphoid malignancies from Moffitt Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Gaballa.

See More from START HERE Follicular Lymphoma

Related Resources:

Follicular Lymphoma Disease Transformation and Secondary Cancer Risk

Follicular Lymphoma Disease Transformation and Secondary Cancer Risk

Relapsed/Refractory Follicular Lymphoma Treatments and Bispecific Antibodies

Relapsed/Refractory Follicular Lymphoma Treatments and Bispecific Antibodies

How Can Follicular Lymphoma Treatment Side Effects Be Reduced?


Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield:

Although follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer, can you speak to the signs that the disease is progressing in the body, what signs that patients might want to look out for?

Dr. Sameh Gaballa:

Yeah, absolutely. So, typically we educate the patients to there are some red flags to look out for, not just for progression,but also for another condition called disease transformation. So, follicular lymphoma does have a, there is a possibility that it can transform from a slow-growing lymphoma to an aggressive lymphoma. Now, this happens at a rate of about maybe 2 to 3 percent per year, but it’s a cumulative risk, so meaning if a patient lives many, many decades, their lifetime risk can be up to as high as 20, 25 percent, 30 percent, depending on the different literature, so there is a chance that these slow-growing lymphomas can transform to an aggressive lymphoma.

And when they do know this, there’s no watch and wait for transformed disease. It has to be treated with chemo immunotherapy because the goal of treatment then is to try to get rid of the aggressive component. What are the signs and symptoms to suggest that you might have transformed disease? This is not something that the patient would typically need to look out for. I tell my patients that, “You don’t need to see, do I have transformed disease or not. This is going to come, and you’re going to know when you have transformed disease. Extreme fatigue, drenching night sweats, the fever sometimes that are not going away.”

The patient might have pain if the lymph node is pressing on some important structure. They may have loss of appetite, loss of weight. So again, something that dramatically happens quickly over a few weeks of time. So if the patient feels sick for one reason or another and they’re not getting better, it can all happen within a few weeks’ time frame. This is the time to get checked early on and go see your oncologist, because then we might need to investigate if there is any potential for transformation. So that’s issue number one.

Issue number two is, which is the much more common scenario, which is the follicular lymphoma is slowly progressing. How would you know? I mean, if you notice a lymph node that in your neck or under the armpits or the groin areas, if they’re growing, then that needs to be evaluated. I mean the patients should expect that those will be growing, they will grow. But they grow over months and years. They don’t grow over weeks.

So anytime you kind of are unsure, if you feel that it’s growing faster than usual, this is, again, something to look out for. And then the B symptoms that I mentioned. So like the sweats, the fevers, the weight, loss of weight, loss of appetite, these are also sometimes things to look out for. Not necessarily, they don’t always mean that it’s transformed disease. It can also be that the follicular lymphoma is also progressing and might need to be treated as well.

Lisa Hatfield:

And then just a quick follow-up to that question. So a patient is watching out for these red flags, but are they going through any kind of regular monitoring in your office? Are you meeting with them on a regular basis? And how frequent might that be for a follicular lymphoma patient who’s watching and waiting?

Dr. Sameh Gaballa:

Yeah. So how does watch and wait look? So, and I tell patients always watch and wait does not mean ignore. Watch and wait means that we’re monitoring the disease, we’re looking at it. How do we do that? So typically we would see the patient maybe every three to six months. And then depending on how do we, when we get a sense or tempo of how their disease is progressing, then we’ll know how often we need to see them. I’ve had, I still have patients where I’m seeing them every three months. And I also have some patients where the disease has been stable for years, I only see them once a year. In terms of imaging, that’s also sometimes an area of controversy. Typically, initially for the first maybe year or two years, I do like a scan, like a CT scan every six months, just to get a sense of how quick or how slow the disease is progressing. If there’s absolutely no change at all, then sometimes we either don’t do scans and just go by the patient’s symptoms and blood work and physical exam, or we do maybe once a year scan but not more than that. So this is how we would monitor the patients in a watch-and-wait approach.


Share Your Feedback:

Create your own user feedback survey

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Essential Testing | What You Should Know

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Essential Testing | What You Should Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What tests are needed for a lung cancer diagnosis, and how might the results affect treatment options? Dr. Erin Schenk reviews the most common tests for lung cancer, including biomarker testing, and how the results may be used to determine the most appropriate therapy for your particular disease.

Dr. Erin Schenk is a medical oncologist, lung cancer researcher, and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Understanding Currently Available Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider

Personalized Lung Cancer Treatment | Key Factors to Consider


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

What are the various subtypes of lung cancer, and how are they identified?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely. So, there are a number of different subtypes of lung cancer that are important for us to identify, because it helps to stratify or helps to select the right treatment approaches for a patient. So, usually when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer there was a scan done at some point that noticed a mass or masses in the body. 

What happens next is a biopsy happens where a needle is used to sample the tissue, and that could be in the lung, that could be in lymph nodes or other parts of the body and that tissue that’s sampled is first sent to my colleagues in pathology.  

And they’re a group of doctors who look at tissues underneath the microscope and try to identify what those are. And based on that initial pathology analysis, we can identify usually pretty straightforward, what is the type of cancer that they see under the microscope.  

And so, in very general terms there are non-small cell lung cancers, there is a group called small cell lung cancers, and there’s also a group called neuroendocrine cancers as well. Oftentimes, times we’re able to differentiate these types of tumors, these types of lung cancers based on how different markers show up, and these are called stains. 

And these stains can differentiate non-small cell between adenocarcinoma versus squamous cell carcinoma. And then they can also help differentiate small cell lung cancer. And then, of course, they can also help to identify if this is a neuroendocrine tumor. 

Katherine Banwell:

Today we’re going to focus on non-small cell lung cancer. Are there specific tests that patients should ask their doctor for following a diagnosis? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think it’s sometimes helpful to understand what are all the pieces of information I need when I first meet a patient to make decisions about treatments? So, we just went over the histology or another word, the pathology, what does the cancer look like underneath – under the microscope? That can help and that’s one of the pieces, understanding what type of non-small cell lung cancer is present. 

Additional information that’s needed includes certain tests, and you might hear say like, molecular testing or sequencing.  

Those pieces of information can be really important for treatment selection. So, whether there’s a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma or squamous cell lung cancer, we always try to know the PD-L1 status. And that’s actually a surface marker that’s present on the outside of the cancer cells and is able to help us select immunotherapy treatments as appropriate.  

Oftentimes, patients with lung adenocarcinoma will get further sequencing of the tumor itself. And again, you might hear of this called molecular testing or next-generation sequencing, NGS. There are a lot of terms we use for it, but fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is understand the vulnerabilities of the cancer cells. 

And these vulnerabilities can be identified by these molecular tests. They often are able to recognize mutations or fusions or genetic changes within the cancer cells that are present. This is critically important, because we have a whole number of oral targeted therapies that can go after these mutations or alterations, and in other words, they go after the vulnerability in the cancer cells. That’s the adenocarcinoma histology.  

That’s the majority of non-small cell lung cancer diagnoses but I think also if you have been told your diagnosis is of squamous lung cancer, classically we don’t often think of those driver alterations or those fusions or mutations that I just spoke about. But I think it’s also quite important for patients in that situation to also undergo molecular testing.  

As we learn more and more, sometimes those squamous lung cancers can also bear those same alterations. Not to the same frequency, but they can be present, and I think it’s important as you’re thinking about a patient to try to understand what are all the tools I have for them to do that sequencing just to make sure you’re not missing something. So, that’s a really in-depth look to molecular testing.  

I’d like to transition to some of the other tests that would be necessary to help put that molecular testing in context. Another important piece is something called staging.  And staging is a way to determine if the lung cancer has traveled elsewhere in the body. 

Sometimes it can be involved in the lymph nodes of the middle of the chest. Sometimes it can go outside the chest. For example, to the bones or the liver or the brain, and understanding that information, understanding that lay of the land before we start treatment, is really important, not only for treatment selection, like the treatments, the medicines I would give as a medical oncologist.  

But also, in thinking about which other colleagues of mine who help take care of patients with lung cancer should I also involve in some of these treatment decisions. So, staging can often involve CT scans of the chest, abdomen, pelvis. A PET scan can be done. As well as an MRI of the brain. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Schenk, I just want to confirm that you’ve been speaking about molecular testing, that’s the same as biomarker testing, right? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Exactly. Exactly. 

Katherine Banwell:

And how is it performed? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

So, biomarker testing, molecular testing, NGS, there’s a whole range of synonyms we use, that is done primarily on the tumor tissue.  

So, the first test that usually comes back is a marker on the cancer cell. 

That’s PD-L1. That is an IHC test that is able to be done pretty quickly and we’re able to have a turnaround time of just a few days to understand that first biomarker. But the PD-L1 status does not make sense unless we have all of the other information to get the best context, the best understanding of the tumor and what drives the tumor. That additional testing is actually the next-generation sequencing where the genetic material of cancer cells, the DNA and RNA is sequenced in a laboratory to look for those mutations or fusions or other alterations that can drive the cancer cells. And again, it helps me identify additional vulnerabilities in the cancer cells to allow me to pick the optimal therapy for the patient in front of me.  

The tissue testing is the gold standard and we try to get all of our answers from the tissue. Sometimes we’re also able to get additional information from the blood, and that’s what’s called a liquid biopsy. Cancer cells – in some patients, cancer cells shed their genetic material into the bloodstream.  

And these specialized tests are able to pick up that genetic material, have the sequencing done on that, and then report back to me about what may or may not be found.  

Now, as I mentioned, not all of lung cancers shed this information into the blood, so it’s not – if the blood does not reveal an answer or information, that’s – we still need to look closer at the tissue, but occasionally if the blood reveals certain alterations, that can be acted upon, and we don’t have to wait for the tissue testing. 

I think one of the challenges that I absolutely sympathize with their biomarker or molecular testing is that it can take a series of weeks to really get all of the information necessary to make the best choice for the patient in front of us.  

And I have a – I have a saying I like to share with patients that is really important and I think really fundamental to the treatment choices for patients with lung cancer and that is, it’s better to get started on the right treatment rather than the fast one, and that’s true. We know through a series of clinical trials that if I were to start a patient on a treatment that wasn’t appropriate to their biomarkers I actually hurt them. So, I actually reduce how well their later therapies will work. 

And so, it’s a tough wait and I anxiously wait with all of my patients but it’s a really important – it’s really important to get all of that information together. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, would the cancer change dramatically over a period of three or four weeks?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

That’s it, you know, that’s a question I hear a lot from patients, and, again, to empathize with the agony of waiting, it’s hard to wait but I can tell you as a doctor who’s taken care of many, many patients with lung cancer the weeks do not make a difference in terms of will have – will it hurt me? So, it will not in general it does not hurt to wait. It’s better to get started on the right treatment because the right treatment has the highest chance of being effective. 

So, the two to three weeks very rarely in my experience has that changed a situation for a patient, but that’s also why we frequently do the liquid biopsy testing at the same time as the tissue testing, because we too want to try to get the answer as quick as possible. So, we try to exhaust all of the routes that we have to get the answer that we need for our patients. 

Katherine Banwell:

What about the latest advances, is there anything in lung cancer testing that patients should know about?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes, absolutely. I think more and more we’re using these liquid biopsies in different situations for patients with lung cancer. So, Katherine, you and I have mostly been talking about patients who’ve been diagnosed with metastatic disease or a disease that’s been spread outside of the lungs. The liquid biopsy testing, though we’re starting to use in patients who have tumors we can remove with surgery or tumors we can try to cure with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

And we’re using more as a marker of response, and what I mean by that is let’s say someone with a cancer that can be surgically resected or removed by surgery, we can check their liquid biopsy. And if we see a marker in their liquid biopsy, we can then follow that over time in conjunction with scans to try to understand is the cancer – you know, with all the information we can, is the cancer completely gone or are we starting to see that marker again? Do we need to think about doing different scans or different tests to look for a potential area of recurrence of the cancer? 

Katherine Banwell:

What sort of questions should patients be asking about their test results? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Uh-huh. I think there are – I think the primary question is “Have you sent my tissue for biomarker testing?” 

And this is true – in my opinion, this is true regardless of the stage of diagnosis, again in the non-small cell lung cancer space, and that’s because we are starting to use some of our targeted therapies as well as our immunotherapies in patients with cancer that can be resected by surgery or maybe would get chemotherapy and radiation therapy. So, these biomarkers are also important in that decision-making for patients that have an earlier stage of disease. And so, I think the first question is, “Has my tissue been sent for biomarker testing?” because I think that’s a part as a necessary part of care given the advances that we’ve made.  

That’s the first question, two, “When do you expect the results? When did it get sent off?” and then three, you know once that has been sent off and whether that’s tissue testing, liquid biopsy, or both, talking with your doctor and your team about what it means.  

How they incorporate this data into your treatment decisions, and then occasionally, asking about did they get all the information they need? Because while we’ve been able to do this biomarker testing for lung cancer for years now, you know, no test is perfect and sometimes cancer cells aren’t the best material to start with when you’re trying to get a really definitive answer.  

So, occasionally patients might need to be biopsied again to really and truly get the full spectrum of information necessary prior to making treatment decisions.  

Why Test Results Matter | Accessing Personalized Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

Why Test Results Matter | Accessing Personalized Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Can test results affect non-small cell lung cancer treatment options? Dr. Erin Schenk reviews essential lung cancer testing, discusses how the results may influence treatment approaches, and explains why it’s important for patients to take an active role in their care and treatment choices.

Dr. Erin Schenk is a medical oncologist, lung cancer researcher, and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

Download Program Resource Guide

See More From INSIST! Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

An Expert Explains Predictive Biomarker Testing for Lung Cancer

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

Advances in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Testing

What Biomarkers Affect Lung Cancer Care and Treatment

What Biomarkers Affect Lung Cancer Care and Treatment?


Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:

Hello, and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today we’re going to discuss the latest advances in lung cancer including the role of genetic testing and how this may affect treatment options. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Well, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Erin Schenk. Dr. Schenk, welcome, would you please introduce yourself? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

And thanks so much, Katherine. I’m Dr. Erin Schenk. I’m a medical oncologist at the University of Colorado and I have a great position where I’m able to take care of patients with lung cancer in the clinic and also, do laboratory-based research on new and different therapies for lung cancer. Thanks so much for having me. 

Katherine Banwell:

That’s so great. Oh, I’m so glad you were able to join us today. Because this program is part of our Insist series which empowers patients to insist on better care. Can you tell us why you think it’s important for patients to speak up and engage in their lung cancer care decisions?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think as a physician it’s important not only to partner with patients but as well as their loved ones and their caregivers who help navigate this diagnosis of lung cancer. There are some diagnoses in the world, cancer being one of them and lung cancer especially that can turn everything upside down. So, it completely changes your world. Suddenly the life as you’ve been living it, the plans you had they all have to be paused or halted in some way to get care for the lung cancer diagnosis.  

One of the – and one of the really hopeful parts about being a doctor who cares for patients with lung cancer is just the speed of the advancements and the speed of the changes in the treatment options that we have for patients diagnosed with really any type of lung cancer.  

And so, I think it’s really important when you’re meeting with your team and you’re talking with your cancer doctor to really try to understand what is the information that they use to make some of these decisions or referrals on your behalf? And also, think about, is there an opportunity for me to get another opinion about what might be the best options? 

Katherine Banwell:

Thank you for that Dr. Schenk, that’s helpful as we begin our discussion today. I’d like to start with some basics. What are the various subtypes of lung cancer, and how are they identified?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely. So, there are a number of different subtypes of lung cancer that are important for us to identify, because it helps to stratify or helps to select the right treatment approaches for a patient. So, usually when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer there was a scan done at some point that noticed a mass or masses in the body. 

What happens next is a biopsy happens where a needle is used to sample the tissue, and that could be in the lung, that could be in lymph nodes or other parts of the body and that tissue that’s sampled is first sent to my colleagues in pathology.  

And they’re a group of doctors who look at tissues underneath the microscope and try to identify what those are. And based on that initial pathology analysis, we can identify usually pretty straightforward, what is the type of cancer that they see under the microscope.  

And so, in very general terms there are non-small cell lung cancers, there is a group called small cell lung cancers, and there’s also a group called neuroendocrine cancers as well. Oftentimes, times we’re able to differentiate these types of tumors, these types of lung cancers based on how different markers show up, and these are called stains. 

And these stains can differentiate non-small cell between adenocarcinoma versus squamous cell carcinoma. And then they can also help differentiate small cell lung cancer. And then, of course, they can also help to identify if this is a neuroendocrine tumor. 

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Thank you so much for explaining that. Today we’re going to focus on non-small cell lung cancer. Are there specific tests that patients should ask their doctor for following a diagnosis?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think it’s sometimes helpful to understand what are all the pieces of information I need when I first meet a patient to make decisions about treatments? So, we just went over the histology or another word, the pathology, what does the cancer look like underneath – under the microscope? That can help and that’s one of the pieces, understanding what type of non-small cell lung cancer is present. 

Additional information that’s needed includes certain tests, and you might hear say like, molecular testing or sequencing. Those pieces of information can be really important for treatment selection. So, whether there’s a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma or squamous cell lung cancer, we always try to know the PD-L1 status. And that’s actually a surface marker that’s present on the outside of the cancer cells and is able to help us select immunotherapy treatments as appropriate.  

Oftentimes, patients with lung adenocarcinoma will get further sequencing of the tumor itself. And again, you might hear of this called molecular testing or next-generation sequencing, NGS. There are a lot of terms we use for it, but fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is understand the vulnerabilities of the cancer cells. 

And these vulnerabilities can be identified by these molecular tests. They often are able to recognize mutations or fusions or genetic changes within the cancer cells that are present. This is critically important, because we have a whole number of oral targeted therapies that can go after these mutations or alterations, and in other words, they go after the vulnerability in the cancer cells. That’s the adenocarcinoma histology.  

That’s the majority of non-small cell lung cancer diagnoses but I think also if you have been told your diagnosis is of squamous lung cancer, classically we don’t often think of those driver alterations or those fusions or mutations that I just spoke about. But I think it’s also quite important for patients in that situation to also undergo molecular testing.   

As we learn more and more, sometimes those squamous lung cancers can also bear those same alterations. Not to the same frequency, but they can be present, and I think it’s important as you’re thinking about a patient to try to understand what are all the tools I have for them to do that sequencing just to make sure you’re not missing something. So, that’s a really in-depth look to molecular testing.  

I’d like to transition to some of the other tests that would be necessary to help put that molecular testing in context. Another important piece is something called staging. And staging is a way to determine if the lung cancer has traveled elsewhere in the body.  

Sometimes it can be involved in the lymph nodes of the middle of the chest. Sometimes it can go outside the chest. For example, to the bones or the liver or the brain, and understanding that information, understanding that lay of the land before we start treatment, is really important, not only for treatment selection, like the treatments, the medicines I would give as a medical oncologist.  

But also, in thinking about which other colleagues of mine who help take care of patients with lung cancer should I also involve in some of these treatment decisions. So, staging can often involve CT scans of the chest, abdomen, pelvis. A PET scan can be done. As well as an MRI of the brain. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Schenk, I just want to confirm that you’ve been speaking about molecular testing, that’s the same as biomarker testing, right?  

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Exactly. Exactly.  

Katherine Banwell:

And how is it performed? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

So, biomarker testing, molecular testing, NGS, there’s a whole range of synonyms we use, that is done primarily on the tumor tissue.   

So, the first test that usually comes back is a marker on the cancer cell. 

That’s PD-L1. That is an IHC test that is able to be done pretty quickly and we’re able to have a turnaround time of just a few days to understand that first biomarker. But the PD-L1 status does not make sense unless we have all of the other information to get the best context, the best understanding of the tumor and what drives the tumor. That additional testing is actually the next-generation sequencing where the genetic material of cancer cells, the DNA and RNA is sequenced in a laboratory to look for those mutations or fusions or other alterations that can drive the cancer cells. And again, it helps me identify additional vulnerabilities in the cancer cells to allow me to pick the optimal therapy for the patient in front of me. 

The tissue testing is the gold standard and we try to get all of our answers from the tissue. Sometimes we’re also able to get additional information from the blood, and that’s what’s called a liquid biopsy. Cancer cells – in some patients, cancer cells shed their genetic material into the bloodstream.  

And these specialized tests are able to pick up that genetic material, have the sequencing done on that, and then report back to me about what may or may not be found.  

Now, as I mentioned, not all of lung cancers shed this information into the blood, so it’s not – if the blood does not reveal an answer or information, that’s – we still need to look closer at the tissue, but occasionally if the blood reveals certain alterations, that can be acted upon, and we don’t have to wait for the tissue testing. 

I think one of the challenges that I absolutely sympathize with their biomarker or molecular testing is that it can take a series of weeks to really get all of the information necessary to make the best choice for the patient in front of us.  

And I have a saying I like to share with patients that is really important and I think really fundamental to the treatment choices for patients with lung cancer and that is, it’s better to get started on the right treatment rather than the fast one, and that’s true. We know through a series of clinical trials that if I were to start a patient on a treatment that wasn’t appropriate to their biomarkers I actually hurt them. So, I actually reduce how well their later therapies will work. 

And so, it’s a tough wait and I anxiously wait with all of my patients but it’s a really important – it’s really important to get all of that information together. 

Katherine Banwell:

Well, would the cancer change dramatically over a period of three or four weeks? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

That’s it, you know, that’s a question I hear a lot from patients, and, again, to empathize with the agony of waiting, it’s hard to wait but I can tell you as a doctor who’s taken care of many, many patients with lung cancer the weeks do not make a difference in terms of will have – will it hurt me? So, it will not in general it does not hurt to wait. It’s better to get started on the right treatment because the right treatment has the highest chance of being effective. 

So, the two to three weeks very rarely in my experience has that changed a situation for a patient, but that’s also why we frequently do the liquid biopsy testing at the same time as the tissue testing, because we too want to try to get the answer as quick as possible. So, we try to exhaust all of the routes that we have to get the answer that we need for our patients. 

Katherine Banwell:

What about the latest advances, is there anything in lung cancer testing that patients should know about? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes, absolutely. I think more and more we’re using these liquid biopsies in different situations for patients with lung cancer. So, Katherine, you and I have mostly been talking about patients who’ve been diagnosed with metastatic disease or a disease that’s been spread outside of the lungs. The liquid biopsy testing, though we’re starting to use in patients who have tumors we can remove with surgery or tumors we can try to cure with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

And we’re using more as a marker of response, and what I mean by that is let’s say someone with a cancer that can be surgically resected or removed by surgery, we can check their liquid biopsy. And if we see a marker in their liquid biopsy, we can then follow that over time in conjunction with scans to try to understand is the cancer – you know, with all the information we can, is the cancer completely gone or are we starting to see that marker again? Do we need to think about doing different scans or different tests to look for a potential area of recurrence of the cancer? 

Katherine Banwell:

What sort of questions should patients be asking about their test results? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

I think the primary question is “Have you sent my tissue for biomarker testing?” 

And this is true – in my opinion, this is true regardless of the stage of diagnosis, again in the non-small cell lung cancer space, and that’s because we are starting to use some of our targeted therapies as well as our immunotherapies in patients with cancer that can be resected by surgery or maybe would get chemotherapy and radiation therapy. So, these biomarkers are also important in that decision-making for patients that have an earlier stage of disease. And so, I think the first question is, “Has my tissue been sent for biomarker testing?” because I think that’s a part as a necessary part of care given the advances that we’ve made.  

That’s the first question, two, “When do you expect the results? When did it get sent off?” and then three, you know once that has been sent off and whether that’s tissue testing, liquid biopsy, or both, talking with your doctor and your team about what it means.  

How they incorporate this data into your treatment decisions, and then occasionally, asking about did they get all the information they need? Because while we’ve been able to do this biomarker testing for lung cancer for years now, you know, no test is perfect and sometimes cancer cells aren’t the best material to start with when you’re trying to get a really definitive answer.  

So, occasionally patients might need to be biopsied again to really and truly get the full spectrum of information necessary prior to making treatment decisions.  

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah, great suggestions. Great ideas, thank you. We’re hearing the term personalized medicine a lot these days. Would you define the term for our audience? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and I think the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer is one of the poster childs for children – for personalized medicine because based on the result of the biomarker testing that’s what drives my choice of therapy because the biomarkers help to tell me what is this cancer most likely to be vulnerable to and that in my mind that’s a wonderful application of the promise of personalized medicine.   

Katherine Banwell:

Okay. Let’s move on to treatment now, Dr. Schenk. Would you walk us through the current treatments being used to treat non-small cell lung cancer? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely, and there are a broad range of options, and thankfully we have so many choices in how to best help patients. And it’s often why visiting with a center that sees a lot of patients with lung cancer can be beneficial so that you have all of the parties at the table that need to be there as we’re making these treatment decisions. So, I would start thinking about patients with early-stage disease. Often surgery if tumors are small enough and there’s not you know, no lymph nodes are involved with the cancer and it’s not anywhere else.  

Sometimes surgery is all that patients might need in terms of their treatment. Those are for patients with smaller tumors and really early-stage disease. As we move forward in the stages, meaning going from stage one to stage two, so a little bit bigger of a tumor, lymph nodes might be involved.  

That’s when really the multi-disciplinary approach happens, and what I mean by that is for example, at my institution where people like me, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons all sit down together to talk about a patient, their scans, you know, what is their health status, what is their biomarker testing, to try to come together to form a treatment approach. And so, at our institution, you know, frequently in stage two to stage three tumors based on biomarker testing we either select upfront surgery followed by chemotherapy followed by sometimes targeted therapies or TKIs.  

Those are the medicines, the TKI, those are the medicines that are really dependent on the presence of biomarker testing. So, the biomarkers often tell us for example if there’s an EGFR mutation. If that’s present then I would use an EGFR TKI, for example. 

But if those biomarkers don’t show a alteration where I have TKI to use, then we frequently are giving patients chemotherapy plus immunotherapy before surgery. This approach is called a neoadjuvant chemoimmunotherapy approach, and it’s one of the newer changes to lung cancer care within the past year that I think really is going to have a positive impact on outcomes for patients with lung cancer.   

So, just again in broad strokes, and then as we move into stage three patients where we can’t resect the tumor, that’s where we give chemotherapy medicines plus radiation therapy. Oftentimes followed by immunotherapy and then when patients have disease that spread outside of the chest, outside of the lungs, the metastatic setting or stage IV, that’s when we think about the whole host of therapies available through medical oncology, systemic therapies is another way to call them.  

And there we think about immunotherapy-based treatments plus or minus chemotherapy or we think about targeted therapy-based approaches with those TKIs. And again, it’s all based on those molecular markers, those biomarkers. 

Katherine Banwell:

Do clinical trials play a role in lung cancer treatment? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Clinical trials are incredibly important for the treatment of lung cancer. These are the tests and the procedures that we do that have continuously advanced our ability to care for patients with lung cancer. You know, it was clinical trial data that helped us get alerted to doing chemotherapy and immunotherapy before surgery really can help patients do better. And similarly, clinical trials have helped us define when do we use TKIs or targeted therapies. 

So, I think that’s another great question to ask your team of, “Based on all of the information you know about me and my cancer are there clinical trials options that are available here where I’m at or ones that are really interesting or appealing elsewhere that might be worthwhile for me to consider?” So, clinical trials are a critical part of how we help patients do better.  

Katherine Banwell:

Personalizing therapy involves taking into account a number of patient factors. What should be considered when deciding on a treatment regimen for a given patient?   

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes. That’s a great question and one that is really important in formulating a treatment plan. So, some patients because of their health status, for example, aren’t able to undergo surgery, and that happens. And so, occasionally sort of their health status maybe their lungs don’t work as well as they used to or the heart doesn’t pump as well as it used to. 

You know, those sorts of health concerns can help us tailor and personalize treatments to what would be the most – the safest but also the most effective approach. Occasionally patients have another long-term chronic disease where using immunotherapy might be more dangerous than helpful because they’re sometimes autoimmune diseases.  

Especially ones that affect the brain, so for example multiple sclerosis can be one of those or disease that affect the lungs, you know, interstitial lung diseases. Those would put a patient at great risk of receiving immunotherapy, but outside of the health status, it’s also important I think to talk about what your preferences are as a patient as well.  

Because sometimes we will come to you and say, “Here are these multiple different choices and what’s important to you or maybe what you’re worried about or what you’re concerned about are considerations that we want to hear about and understand so that we can talk you through the process and help make some of these decisions.” You know, for example, if you’re receiving chemotherapy plus radiation together for your cancer care that can be a huge time commitment.  

What I mean by that is when patients get radiation in certain circumstances, that can be once a day every day, Monday through Friday for six weeks at a time and sometimes patients have challenges with transportation. Or sometimes they have you know, challenges balancing a job or childcare or other things like that. So, these are all part of the – just part of bringing it all together and putting together a treatment plan that makes sense for what we understand about the lung cancer itself, but also what we understand about you as our patient. 

You know, how can we make changes or make suggestions that would best fit for you and your needs? 

Katherine Banwell:

You’ve brought up some really good points and of course, patients should be involved in these decisions. If a patient is feeling uncomfortable with their care plan, why do you think it’s important for them to speak up? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

In my experience, when people are worried about certain things or they say they definitely don’t want this therapy it’s because they have seen other loved ones or family members suffer because of that particular type of treatment in the past. And I think bringing up those concerns can be helpful for me as someone’s doctor to talk them through, okay, this is what chemotherapy looks like. This is what we do to help reduce your side effects.  

These are the resources we have to support you through treatment if any of these side effects come about and I think I also impress upon them that receiving treatment is ultimately their decision now. My bias of course, I think we can help patients quite a bit with their treatments, but I think it’s also important to recognize you know, they have autonomy to say no at any point in time. And I think just acknowledging those fears, acknowledging those concerns, putting together a plan you know, before any of those potential worrisome side effects happen can be really powerful to help reduce some of the stress and worry around treatment. 

Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Schenk, when should patients consider a second opinion or even consulting a specialist? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

I think any time it’s appropriate. We – at our institution, we’re one of the main lung cancer centers that – you know, within several hundred miles, so we frequently see patients and sometimes it’s just to check in and say you know, the patient says, “Here’s what my team has started me on. You know, what do you think should be the next approach?” and we talk about that, but really anytime I think is appropriate for reaching out for another set of eyes to look at things. I would say perhaps some of those most critical times would be prior to treatment starts especially if – yeah, I would say prior to starting a treatment with that new diagnosis.  

That would be a really critical time because often again, sometimes once we start down a treatment path, we’re in some ways we’re committed, but if that maybe isn’t the optimal treatment path based on, you know, the tumor and the biomarkers and the patient preference starting on that less optimal treatment path could potentially hurt patients in the long run. So, I would say at – you know, potentially at diagnosis when a treatment course is recommended and then if there is a need to change treatments.  

So, for example, especially in the metastatic setting there are certain therapies widely available. People are very familiar with them, can start them no problem, but when those treatments stop being beneficial that might be a time to also meet with a specialist or go to a lung cancer center of excellence to get their opinions on what to do next.  

Katherine Banwell:

You know, one thing patients are often concerned about is the financial aspect, the financial burden that is involved in their treatment care. How do they deal with that? Are there resources available for them? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

There can be and this definitely can vary based on what treatment you’re being given and where you are, at what institution and what state you’re being treated at since resources are different. But for example, the targeted therapies or the TKIs I made reference to earlier, those can have some significant out-of-pocket costs and most of the,  if not all of the manufacturers of those various TKIs have patient assistance programs that help to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for those specific medicines.  

When I prescribe a TKI for a patient often what’s part of that is a prior authorization to try to understand what’s the out-of-pocket cost for the patient and then kind of get on top of whether or not we need to apply for patient assistance to help pay for the cost of that medication. So, that’s one way that we can help. 

I think, in again, this is specific to my institution and our clinical practice, but we often have – we work very closely with other cancer doctors in the community. So, if traveling to our site is a major burden we can usually have them visit with a oncologist who’s close to them so there’s less travel, there’s less costs in you know gas and staying somewhere. But they still can be connected with us. So, while they can get most of their care under a doctor that’s closer to them, every so often they come back and see me and just talk about how things are going and what you know might be worthwhile to consider down the road.  

And I would also recommend that if there are other costs or concerns you know, kind of above and beyond these things that we’ve touched on, connecting with a social worker through the cancer center can be helpful in dealing with paperwork for disability or retirement or sometimes connecting to resources if there’s a childcare need. 

Or you’re caring for a spouse and you need additional help at home. You know all of the different burdens that are present in life that just get magnified with a cancer diagnosis and you know, we can – there’s usually a really big attempt to try to find a way to help figure out navigating those so that you can get the care you need.  

Katherine Banwell:

Yeah. Before we close, Dr. Schenk, I’d like to get your final thoughts. What would you like to leave the audience with? Are you hopeful? 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Yes. There are tremendous – there has been tremendous growth and change in the practice in how we treat patients with lung cancer, even just in the past handful of years and it’s made marked improvements in how well people do and for how long they do well. 

And that – you know that trajectory I anticipate continuing based on the clinical trials I’ve been involved with as well as the data I hear about from other clinical trials thinking about new and different medicines that we could use in the diagnosis of lung cancer. As well as applying some of the medicines we already have in different ways and different situations you know, to help better control the cancer or help even increase the cure rate in certain situations.  

So, I think there are a number of reasons to be hopeful and if you visit with your team of doctors and that you don’t get that sense of hope or you don’t hear about all the different ways that they can help you, you know that might be a time to really think about, “Perhaps I need to get a second opinion and hear about some of these developments or some these other ways that potentially I could be treated with my new diagnosis of lung cancer.”   

So, I think there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. Lung cancer, of course, is still a serious life-changing diagnosis, but there are ways we can help regardless of what the stage is or where you’re at in life. I think there are opportunities for us to still help you. 

Katherine Banwell:

It sounds promising, Dr. Schenk. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. 

Dr. Erin Schenk:

Absolutely. Thank you for the invitation.  

Katherine Banwell:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient visit powerfulpatients.org.  

I’m Katherine Banwell, thanks for being with us today.   

Monitoring for an Endometrial Cancer Recurrence

Monitoring for an Endometrial Cancer Recurrence from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How are endometrial cancer patients monitored for a recurrence? Expert Dr. Emily Ko shares insight about how monitoring is tailored to a patient’s individual disease and discusses the frequency of observation.

Dr. Emily Ko is a gynecologic oncologist and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more about Dr. Ko.

 

Related Programs:

Endometrial Cancer Treatment and Research Updates

What Should Endometrial Cancer Patients Know About Clinical Trials?

How Is Endometrial Cancer Staged?

How Is Endometrial Cancer Staged?


Transcript:

Katherine:

How are patients monitored for a recurrence, and are there approaches to help prevent a recurrence? 

Dr. Ko:

Sure, absolutely. Great question. It is important to continue monitoring patients, even after they’ve gone through treatment. So, I think of it as a multifaceted approach. Usually, it includes office visits, including a physical exam. It includes a thorough intake of all of their symptoms. 

It also includes – depending on the scenario – in some circumstances, regular imaging studies, such as a CT scan or MRI, and sometimes, we also do things like PET scans, and I think that does have to be tailored to the unique patient’s endometrial cancer, unique case, stage, histology, and we kind of tailor which tests we choose to do. The interval of monitoring can vary, so I would say generally speaking, it could be anywhere from three- to six-month visits, and with potentially added scans, as we talked about, and sometimes, we also do certain blood tests in certain cases where we may choose to follow a CA125 blood tumor marker. 

But, I would say that there are different, definitely variants to how we choose to monitor, and there are certain resources we tend to use, such as the NCCN guidelines that providers may reference, and sometimes may even share with the patients to explain why and how we choose to do the monitoring. 

Head and Neck Cancer Staging | What Patients Need to Know

Head and Neck Cancer Staging | What Patients Need to Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do head and neck cancer patients need to know about staging? Expert Dr. Ari Rosenberg discusses the testing involved in determining head and neck cancer stages. 

Dr. Ari Rosenberg is a medical oncologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Rosenberg.

See More From The Pro-Active Head and Neck Cancer Patient Toolkit

Related Programs:

Head & Neck Cancer Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You?

Head and Neck Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You?

What Are the Types of Head and Neck Cancer

What Are the Types of Head and Neck Cancer?

Expert Advice for Newly Diagnosed Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Expert Advice for Newly Diagnosed Head and Neck Cancer Patients


Transcript:

Katherine:

How is head and neck cancer staged? 

Dr. Rosenberg:

Yeah, so after the diagnosis of head and neck cancer, there’s generally a number of tests that are done to determine where it spreads to.  

Where it started, where it spreads to, to figure out what the best treatment approach is. So, oftentimes, that starts with a physical examination, often in combination with an ENT, or a head and neck surgeon. Oftentimes, that will involve endoscopy, which is a camera that the ENT uses to look very closely and carefully on the extent of the tumor itself. 

Additionally, we generally tend to use imaging as well, in order to stage or determine the extent of where the tumor might have spread to. Oftentimes, that involves imaging of the head and neck, of course, so that’s sometimes a CT scan, or an MRI scan. Oftentimes, it involves imaging of the chest to see if there’s been any spread to the chest or the lungs, that’s oftentimes a CT scan of the chest.  

And typically, that also involves, in many cases, a PET CT scan, which is a specialized scan that actually looks at the whole body and identifies where, in as precise a manner as we can determine, where the cancer has spread to.  

So, I would say that’s generally the overview. Some of the subtypes may have some other tests that may be specific to your specific scenario, but I think those are some of the more general staging evaluations that we do. 

Personalized Medicine | Making Lung Cancer Treatment Decisions

Personalized Medicine | Making Lung Cancer Treatment Decisions from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Lung cancer expert Dr. Jyoti Patel explains how biomarker testing is used to guide treatment decisions and personalize care plans for patients.

Jyoti Patel, MD, is Medical Director of Thoracic Oncology and Assistant Director for Clinical Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. She is also Associate Vice-Chair for Clinical Research and a Professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Patel is a leader in thoracic oncology, focusing her efforts on the development and evaluation of novel molecular markers and therapeutics in patients battling non-small cell lung cancer. Learn more about Dr. Patel.

See More from Thrive Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Collaborating on Lung Cancer Treatment Decisions With Your Team

Expert Perspective | The Value of Empowering Patients


Transcript:

Katherine:

Since no two people with lung cancer are the same, how do you decide which treatment is best for each patient? 

Dr. Patel:

So, the process of evaluating a patient can actually take a little bit of time. So, we first meet a patient, and they may have suspicious findings. We want to understand the full stage of their cancer. And so, in 2022, that’s doing an MRI of the brain, a CT of the chest and abdomen, and often times a pet scan to look for any evidence of distant disease.  

So, once we have radiographic modeling of where we think the tumor is, sometimes we need to do a repeat biopsy to confirm whether or not lymph nodes are involved or the cancer has spread. After we do the biopsy and say that it’s non-small cell lung cancer or small cell lung cancer, we make decisions about looking for genetic markers.  

And so, we’ll often take the tumor tissue and stain for things like PD-L1, which is a marker of response to immunotherapies.  

Very importantly, with all these new targeted therapies, we want to understand the genetic makeup of cancer. So, we want to look for things like EGFR mutations or ALK translocations which are more effectively treated with targeted therapies than chemotherapy or immunotherapy.  

So, those are the tumor characteristics. But, again, I’ve said before, a tumor exists in a person.  

And so, you need to understand what’s important to the person, what do they prioritize, what’s their health like, what, again, are the preferences, are there other comorbidities that could perhaps make some treatments more difficult? Many people, for example, have autoimmune disease. And so, that can be something that’s relatively minor, like some psoriasis that is well-controlled versus perhaps lupus which can cause organ failure.  

Often with psoriasis there are ways that we can give immunotherapy safely. Sometimes other autoimmune diseases would put patients at very high risk with immunotherapies. And so, again, understanding the overall health, understanding other competing causes of toxicity, are absolutely important as you make decisions together.  

Katherine:

Yeah. It seems like we’re getting closer to personalized medicine. For you, how would you define that term? 

Dr. Patel:

Personalized medicine comes in two forms. So, one is the biologics of the tumor itself. So, what do I understand about the genetic markers, the likelihood of response to the available therapies. The other piece, again, is personalizing it to the person that has the cancer.  

And so, again, what are the preferences? What are the risks they’re willing to take? What are their goals? What are the preferences? 

Emerging Therapies | Hope for the Future of Lung Cancer Care

Emerging Therapies | Hope for the Future of Lung Cancer Care from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Lung cancer expert Dr. Jyoti Patel provides updates about emerging research and shares her impressions about the future of lung cancer care.

Jyoti Patel, MD, is Medical Director of Thoracic Oncology and Assistant Director for Clinical Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. She is also Associate Vice-Chair for Clinical Research and a Professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Patel is a leader in thoracic oncology, focusing her efforts on the development and evaluation of novel molecular markers and therapeutics in patients battling non-small cell lung cancer. Learn more about Dr. Patel.

See More from Thrive Lung Cancer

Related Resources:

Tips for Managing Your Oral Lung Cancer Treatment

Collaborating on Lung Cancer Treatment Decisions With Your Team

The Latest Lung Cancer Research Updates From ASCO 2022


Transcript:

Katherine:

I’d like to talk about emerging treatments. Are there any therapies in development that patients should know about that you’re excited about? 

Dr. Patel:

There are a number of things that are happening right now in the landscape that is really, again, giving us great optimism about how to move forward. So, areas of active research really concentrate on identification of new targets so that we have identified oncogenes that we’re trying to treat effectively. So, those are things like EGFR Exon 20 mutations or HER2 mutations, as well as some of these new fusions.  

Another area of rapidly growing research is that most patients who have targeted therapies will eventually develop resistance. And so, understanding how to mitigate resistance or how to overcome resistance is important. And we often talk about the different drugs in development as first-, second-, and third-generation drugs in the EGFR space, which accounts for about 15 percent of lung cancers in the United States. We’re looking at fourth-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors. They’re certainly very exciting.  

The other piece, I think, of research that is moving and that we are looking forward to understanding why some patients have really robust responses to immunotherapies and others don’t. Or how people become immune to the effects of immunotherapy. And so, understanding the tumor microenvironment, seeing if there are other proteins that we can co-stimulate to cause these robust and durable responses to immunotherapy is an area that we’re working on.  

Katherine:

Before we close, I’d like to ask, are you hopeful about the potential for people with lung cancer to thrive? 

Dr. Patel:

Absolutely. The future is bright after years of working and really developing this great foundational science.  

We are seeing the transformation of cancer care in a way that is faster than I could’ve ever imagined at the beginning of my career. We’re bringing scientific insights to the bedside. And bringing it to the bedside is impacting how patients live with their cancer and thrive with their cancer. They’re living longer and with fewer toxicities and side effects than I ever imagined.  

I’m optimistic about the promise of early detection through blood tests one day, through screening with CT scans to find early-staged disease in which the cancer is the most curable. And then for patients with more extensive disease, to really understand how we can sequence therapies or deescalate therapies when patients have minimal burden of disease, again, to decrease the toxicities 

Thriving With Lung Cancer: What You Should Know About Care and Treatment

Thriving With Lung Cancer: What You Should Know About Care and Treatment from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What does it mean to thrive with lung cancer? Dr. Jyoti Patel discusses care and treatment goals, reviews current and emerging treatment options, and shares advice for living well and thriving with lung cancer.

Jyoti Patel, MD, is Medical Director of Thoracic Oncology and Assistant Director for Clinical Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. She is also Associate Vice-Chair for Clinical Research and a Professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Patel is a leader in thoracic oncology, focusing her efforts on the development and evaluation of novel molecular markers and therapeutics in patients battling non-small cell lung cancer. Learn more about Dr. Patel.

See More from Thrive Lung Cancer

Download Resource Guide

Related Resources:

Why Lung Cancer Patient Advocacy Is Essential

Expert Perspective | The Value of Empowering Patients

Collaborating on Lung Cancer Treatment Decisions With Your Team


Transcript:

Katherine:

Hello and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today’s webinar focuses on how patients can aim to live well and thrive with lung cancer. We’re going to discuss treatment goals and the importance of patients playing an active role in their care. Before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. Let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Jyoti Patel. Dr. Patel, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself? 

Dr. Patel:

Hi. Thanks so much. My name is Jyoti Patel. I’m a professor in medicine at the Northwestern University Lurie Cancer Center and I’m the medical director of thoracic oncology and the vice chair of clinical research for the Department of Medicine.   

Katherine:

Well, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us today. Since this webinar is part of PEN’s Thrive series, I’d like to ask you from your clinical experience and perspective, what do you think it means to thrive with lung cancer? 

Dr. Patel:

I think our definition of that has evolved considerably over the past two decades. The advancements in the lab and in clinical trials have translated to vastly different outcomes from our patients than I ever imagined two decades ago. So, certainly we see a large number of lung cancer survivors, people who have had early disease that has been eradicated and they are living after their lung cancer diagnosis with sequela treatment. And we see an even larger number of patients who are in active treatment, those with more advanced disease.  

When we can minimize the toxicities of active treatment and really focus on quality of life, survival outcomes, then I think we’re really talking about thriving with lung cancer.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Well, thank you for your insights. Of course, an appropriate treatment course is part of thriving. Before we get into treatment though I’d like you to walk us through the types of lung cancer if you would.  

Dr. Patel:

Sure. So, over 200,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. And we break lung cancer down into two major diagnoses. So, the more common one is non-small cell lung cancer. The less common one, which accounts for 13 percent of diagnoses, is small cell lung cancer. Those are descriptive terms but don’t really go beyond that. It’s, essentially, what do the cells look like under the microscope? We know that these two behave very differently. Small cell lung cancer tends to be a cancer which can move a little bit more quickly. It tends to be more aggressive.  

We have certain treatment regimens that are appropriate. Non-small cell lung cancer is one which we further subdivide into adenocarcinoma, squamous cell cancer, or large neuroendocrine cancer. And we treat those a little bit more similarly with different local therapies and different systemic agents.  

Katherine:

Okay. How would you define treatment goals for people with lung cancer? 

Dr. Patel:

So, we hope that the number of patients that we find with earlier stage disease increases as we now at least have evidence to do screening for people who are at high risk. So, for patients with early-stage disease, which we really define as stage I and stage II – so, cancer that’s limited to the lobe of a lung – our best treatment options are surgery and sometimes radiation in appropriate patients. And for those patients, we think that treatment is discreet and curative.  

For the third of patients who present with stage III disease or locally-advanced disease – and here we’ve seen significant advancements with the integration of immunotherapies, improvements in surgery, and radiation. Their treatment course tends to be a bit longer but, again, our intent is curative. So, the cancer has discreet therapy, we complete it, and then patients are in survivorship mode, in which we’re following them periodically.  

Unfortunately, still, a large number of patients present with more advanced disease. Stage IV disease or metastatic disease. Those are all sort of interchangeable. And treatment for those patients is about controlling the cancer. Often, you’ll hear the word “palliative.” So, the goal of treatment is to control the cancer, to decrease the burden of cancer, and to help patients live longer. Certainly, again, with our advancements of immunotherapies and targeted therapies, patients are living longer than ever before.  

And in some patients, it really becomes a chronic disease in which checkups can be periodically done or patients can be monitored off of treatment for long periods.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Do treatment goals vary by lung cancer type?   

Dr. Patel:

So, the goal of cancer treatment is always to make patients live longer and to make sure that that quality of that survival is the best it can be. So, that’s always our overlying goal. For patients with early disease or early stage – stage I to III non-small cell lung cancer – is something we call limited stage. Small cell lung cancer, the intent is, again, curative. For patients with more advanced disease, we tend to think about the cancer as something that we control, that we see a good response to hopefully, and watch patients over time.  

There are a subset of patients with more advanced disease that have really significantly better outcomes. We call these sort of patients “super survivors.” And we hope to make that number greater as we incorporate new science into their treatment paradigms. 

Katherine:

What is the role of patients in making treatment decisions? 

Dr. Patel:

I think all treatment decisions are patient-focused.  

So, again, understanding someone’s goals of treatment are important. But understanding the context in which the cancer is happening. So, the cancer is part of a patient that has a really full life. Family. Work. Other medical comorbidities. Things that they prioritize. And so, having open discussion about the likelihood of achieving curative therapy or what the risks and benefit ratios are in palliative therapy are absolutely essential to having transparent and honest communication with patients. But it is also optimistic and compassionate.  

Katherine:

You mentioned some treatment approaches a few moments ago, but I’d like to walk through the types of treatments that are used today to treat lung cancer. Let’s start with surgery.  

Dr. Patel:

We think about local therapies as things like surgery. So, surgery has evolved, again, significantly.  

Now with videoscopic approaches and robotic approaches we’re able to remove a tumor either with a larger incision – more traditional incision – or some of the smaller incisions. And the goal of doing the surgery is often to want to diagnosis the cancer. So, to do a biopsy. But when it’s used in terms of cancer treatment, the goal of surgery is to get a complete resection.  

So, we only do surgery if we can remove a tumor and mass with clear margins and not compromise other vital functions. Sometimes we’ll, again, do a more palliative surgery if we need to, if there’s a problem that’s causing significant symptoms. But in that case, the surgery is generally not improving the survival of the patient. It’s trying to palliate symptoms.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. What about other types of therapy? 

Dr. Patel:

Other localized therapies predominately include radiation therapy. And, again, radiation has significantly changed over the past years. We’ve been able to incorporate new technologies, truly target tumors, and to minimize toxicity, with two kinds of radiation. Photon therapy, which is more traditional therapy, and proton therapy, which we see administered in a very small subset of patients.  

Primarily, photon therapy, we treat tumors, sometimes over many weeks, to decrease toxicity versus sometimes we give one or two doses of radiation in a high-dose fashion that’s very targeted.  So, often for the chest in stage III cancer, for example, a patient may end up getting six weeks of radiation Monday to Friday with chemotherapy.  

And that, again, is curative intent. It’s to ablate the cancer and to provide the best local treatment. 

Often, we’ll do something called stereotactic radiation therapy. And that is if there is a discreet mass, often that could be if the cancer is metastasized to the brain, we can give very targeted radiation there, again, to ablate the tumor.  

In patients who may not be candidates for surgery because lung surgery is a big deal, right? Removing part of your lung can lead to morbidity in someone with other medical issues. Sometimes we can use pinpoint radiation in the lung and see really good outcomes for patients with good disease control.  

Katherine:

You’re also using chemotherapy still, I would imagine? 

Dr. Patel:

The other part of treatment for lung cancer are systemic therapies. And there a number of systemic therapies. So, I sort of break it down into three major parts. One is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy remains a backbone of treatment for lung cancer.  

It’s a lot more tolerable and much more personalized than ever before. Often chemotherapy can be given to patients without significant toxicities. Not everyone loses their hair. Not everyone has neuropathy. Often, I have patients who are working and taking care of their families on chemotherapy. So, it is a good and very reasonable option. But two things that we’re really most excited about – and I think have changed the field most dramatically – are targeted therapies and immunotherapies.   

Katherine:

Mm-hmm.  

Dr. Patel:

These targeted therapies are rationally-designed molecules or antibodies that block proteins that may be overexpressed in lung cancer.  

So, some of them are the byproducts of mutated genes that are upregulated and causing a cancer to grow. Others may just be that we’re seeing a high level of protein expression on the cancer cell. But these targeted therapies preferentially bind to their targets that are present on cancer cells and not so much normal cells. Because of this, often there is less toxicity to normal cells. But because we can find specific targets – and the best targets are ones that are only expressed on cancer cells.  

But because we can find a direct target, sometimes we’re able to design drugs that may have significant efficacy. So, 80 percent or 90 percent of people who have a particular target and are able to get a targeted therapy may have a response to treatment. Targeted therapy can be great for some patients. And patients may be on oral medications, sometimes for years, to control their cancer.  

The other real game-changer in the past decade for lung cancer has been the integration of immunotherapy. Approved immunotherapies currently are primarily antibodies that we give to patients. And these antibodies block proteins that are expressed by cancer cells which downregulate the immune system. By shutting down these proteins, your own immune system is able to kind of re-see the cancer cell and kill it.  

And so, now we know in patients with more advanced disease that immunotherapy or immunotherapy with chemotherapy leads to better outcomes than we’ve ever seen. We also use immunotherapy for patients with stage III lung cancer after chemotherapy and radiation. And this improves their survival significantly.  

And most recently, we’ve now integrated immunotherapy after surgery for patients with early-staged disease to decrease their chance of relapse from cancer.   

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. That’s excellent. Are some of the targeted therapies taken orally? And if so, are patients in charge of administering them, their own therapies?  

Dr. Patel:

Many of the targeted therapies that are most effective are taken orally. And so, patients take them at home. Often, they’ll have once-daily dosing or twice-daily dosing. The number of pills often depends on the formulation of the drug. So, patients are responsible, I guess, for taking them. That comes with a lot. So, we need to think about, how do we help with adherence? How do we manage toxicity? How are the drugs affected by whether you eat or take the drug on an empty stomach? There are a lot of nuances there.  

Generally, we like to give a lot of information to our patients. So, often, patients will meet with a pharmacist when they’re first prescribed the medication. They’ll meet with our nurses to go over how to take those and how to manage any side effects if they have them or what to do if there are any adverse reactions.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Well, what would happen if a patient forgets to take one of their medications? Does that impact its effectiveness? And then should they get in touch with their healthcare team to let them know? 

Dr. Patel:

So, generally, we like patients to take the medication almost at the same time every day. We sort of think about half-life. So, we want to make sure that that serum level stays appropriate. If someone misses a dose – which happens – and, again the best-case scenario is that people are on these pills for years, right? For several years. So, of course, you’re going to miss a dose.  If that happens, we generally tell people never to double up.  

To let your team know. Often you can just skip that dose and take it in the evening or the next day.  

Katherine:

I’d like to talk about emerging treatments. Are there any therapies in development that patients should know about that you’re excited about? 

Dr. Patel:

There are a number of things that are happening right now in the landscape that is really, again, giving us great optimism about how to move forward. So, areas of active research really concentrate on identification of new targets so that we have identified oncogenes that we’re trying to treat effectively. So, those are things like EGFR Exon 20 mutations or HER2 mutations, as well as some of these new fusions.  

Another area of rapidly growing research is that most patients who have targeted therapies will eventually develop resistance. And so, understanding how to mitigate resistance or how to overcome resistance is important. And we often talk about the different drugs in development as first, second, and third-generation drugs in the EGFR space, which accounts for about 15 percent of lung cancers in the United States. We’re looking at fourth-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors. They’re certainly very exciting.  

The other piece, I think, of research that is moving and that we are looking forward to understanding why some patients have really robust responses to immunotherapies and others don’t. Or how people become immune to the effects of immunotherapy. And so, understanding the tumor microenvironment, seeing if there are other proteins that we can co-stimulate to cause these robust and durable responses to immunotherapy is an area that we’re working on.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Since no two people with lung cancer are the same, how do you decide which treatment is best for each patient? 

Dr. Patel:

So, the process of evaluating a patient can actually take a little bit of time. So, we first meet a patient, and they may have suspicious findings. We want to understand the full stage of their cancer. And so, in 2022, that’s doing an MRI of the brain, a CT of the chest and abdomen, and often times a pet scan to look for any evidence of distant disease.  

So, once we have radiographic modeling of where we think the tumor is, sometimes we need to do a repeat biopsy to confirm whether or not lymph nodes are involved or the cancer has spread. After we do the biopsy and say that it’s non-small cell lung cancer or small cell lung cancer, we make decisions about looking for genetic markers.  

And so, we’ll often take the tumor tissue and stain for things like PD-L1, which is a marker of response to immunotherapies.  

Very importantly, with all these new targeted therapies, we want to understand the genetic makeup of cancer. So, we want to look for things like EGFR mutations or ALK translocations which are more effectively treated with targeted therapies than chemotherapy or immunotherapy.  

So, those are the two tumor characteristics. But, again, I’ve said before, a tumor exists in a person.  

And so, you need to understand what’s important to the person, what do they prioritize, what’s their health like, what, again, are the preferences, are there other comorbidities that could perhaps make some treatments more difficult? Many people, for example, have autoimmune disease. And so, that can be something that’s relatively minor, like some psoriasis that is well-controlled versus perhaps lupus which can cause organ failure.  

Often with psoriasis there are ways that we can give immunotherapy safely. Sometimes other autoimmune diseases would put patients at very high risk with immunotherapies. And so, again, understanding the overall health, understanding other competing causes of toxicity, are absolutely important as you make decisions together.  

Katherine:

Yeah. It seems like we’re getting closer to personalized medicine. For you, how would you define that term? 

Dr. Patel:

Personalized medicine comes in two forms. So, one is the biologics of the tumor itself. So, what do I understand about the genetic markers, the likelihood of response to the available therapies. The other piece, again, is personalizing it to the person that has the cancer.  

And so, again, what are the preferences? What are the risks they’re willing to take? What are their goals? What are the preferences? 

Katherine:

Symptoms and side effects can sometimes be a burden to patients undergoing treatment. What are the most common issues that patients face? 

Dr. Patel:

So, common symptoms from treatment can include fatigue, lack of appetite, disinterest in the things that made you really excited before. Infrequently now we have severe nausea, because we have such good antinausea medications.  

Sometimes we’ll have problems with blood counts or risks of infection. All of these vary by the treatment that’s rendered. And so, often it may be that you’re on a targeted therapy. Some targeted therapies, for example, can cause swelling in your legs. Immunotherapies are generally well-tolerated but can cause significant side effects in a small minority of people that could include inflammation in the gut, for example.  

So, everything is sort of tailored, I would say. Most frequently, I hear about the fatigue, and then the ongoing stressors of living with cancer. So, the financial toxicity certainly. These drugs are expensive. But not only that, often people have changed the way they work. Their family members have changed how they work to support their loved one. So, bringing people to appointments.  

There’s a lot on someone’s plate. And that can contribute to fatigue and even some anxiety.  

Katherine:

Yeah. What strategies are in place to manage symptoms and side effects? 

Dr. Patel:

So, having a patient who’s knowledgeable about potential side effects and a good advocate for themselves is probably the best way to manage therapy. So, ongoing dialogue with your clinical team, with your nurse, with your physician, are absolutely important. But most of us work with teams of healthcare workers. And so, when I think about our clinic, we have financial counselors, we have social workers, we have dieticians and nutritionists, we work with physical therapists. And importantly, we work with a palliative care team that helps us, again, manage some of the toxicities of therapy.  

We think that they provide a longitudinal assessment of patients and remember what’s most important to a patient over time. Whereas often in the moment there’s this, we want to make the tumor shrink. We think about what we can do immediately. It’s often really helpful to have another team that can provide support over the patient’s journey to help us, again, prioritize what they wanted to do the most.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Dr. Patel, why do you think it’s necessary for patients to tell their doctor about any issues they may be having? Even the little ones.  

Dr. Patel:

I think most of us want to be good patients. And so, we minimize things because we think that, okay, we’re using precious time to talk about things that may seem minor. But, again, all of these add up.  

Even minor symptoms, particularly in the era of immunotherapy, can turn out to be big problems. So, as I say now to my patients particularly on immunotherapy, if something seems a little bit off and you can’t put your finger on it, I just need to know so I can at least do the appropriate workup to make sure that we’re not missing anything. Because symptoms of underlying problems can be very misleading.  

Moreover, I think the cumulative burden of cancer. So, again, we talked a little bit about the financial toxicity, the emotional cost, the time involved in treatment, all of that adds up. And you never want to get it to a breaking point. We want to manage it early on, so we can, again, make decisions together and keep wellness and the quality of survival at the forefront.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. You mentioned that sometimes treatment doesn’t work for an individual patient. So, are there options for relapsed patients? 

Dr. Patel:

So, absolutely. Most of our therapies in the metastatic setting work for some time. And then cancer is a difficult adversary. It figures out how to overcome whatever strategy we’re using and becomes resistant. When that happens, often we need to change course. We need to try a new therapy. We have a number of therapies that we’re looking at in the first- and second-line settings. And we’re trying to understand best therapies for subsequent lines of treatment.  

Generally, I say treatment is appropriate if you’re feeling pretty well, right? If you’re able to tolerate treatment, then the likelihood that you would be able to benefit from therapy is significant. How that changes over time weighs heavily on our decision. So, if someone’s having more fatigue or more symptoms from their cancer, it may be that even a little bit of toxicity proves too much.  

Whereas if someone is feeling still really good, we may be willing to say, okay, I’m going to take a little bit more of a risk for the benefit of improved cancer control.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. You talked about this a few moments ago, but I would like to talk about self-advocacy. Managing the worry associated with a diagnosis or concerns about progression can lead to anxiety and fear in some patients. So, why is it important for patients to share how they’re feeling with their healthcare team? And who all is in the healthcare team who would be able to help a patient? 

Dr. Patel:

So, the anxiety of cancer therapies, of CT scans, of tumor assessments, can be overpowering. And then the longer-term anxieties. Who’s going to care for me, who’s going to care for my family, am I doing the things that are important to me, are ones that weigh heavily on all of us.  

So, certainly, again, carrying these anxieties over a long time have adverse impacts. So, people who are more anxious may not sleep as well. They may lose weight. They may not be as robust. And so, all of those things weigh into our ability to give more treatment. So, we want people to be psychologically well. We have, generally now in our healthcare teams, a number of people who are there to help.  

And so, we have nurse navigators. Most cancer centers have a number of psychologists and psychiatrists that work with our teams. But more than that, even things like nutritionists and social workers make a significant impact. And then I’m surely lucky to work with a world-class palliative care team. So, these are doctors that really focus on symptoms of cancer, the toxicities of treatment. And we work together to ensure the best outcome for our patients.  

Katherine:

Dr. Patel, we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up financial concerns.  

Treatment and regular appointments can become quite expensive. So, understanding that everyone’s situation is different, where can patients turn to if they need resources for financial support?  

Dr. Patel:

When your team first talks to you about therapies, it’s important that they have transparency about what something may cost or the risks that you may incur by starting treatment. However, most of us have access to wonderful financial teams and financial counselors that can help you manage this.  

Many of our industry partners and friends are able to have assistance programs to provide oral drugs at discounted rates or to work, again, with organizations in which you may be able to have reduced rates for many of your drugs. Most of the infusional drugs, again, should be covered by insurance. But outside of drug costs, there are a lot of other costs.  

So, parking every time you come for a doctor’s appointment. Time off from work. Time that you’re hiring a babysitter to take care of your children when you’re at treatment. All of those add up. And so, again, perhaps talking to the social worker at your cancer center or talking to the financial counselor, there are often local programs that can help ease some of those burdens. 

Katherine:

Thank you for that advice, Dr. Patel. Before we close, I’d like to ask, are you hopeful about the potential for people with lung cancer to thrive? 

Dr. Patel:

Absolutely. The future is bright after years of working and really developing this great foundational science.  

We are seeing the transformation of cancer care in a way that is faster than I could’ve ever imagined at the beginning of my career. We’re bringing scientific insights to the bedside. And bringing it to the bedside is impacting how patients live with their cancer and thrive with their cancer. They’re living longer and with fewer toxicities and side effects than I ever imagined.  

I’m optimistic about the promise of early detection through blood tests one day, through screening with CT scans to find early-staged disease in which the cancer is the most curable. And then for patients with more extensive disease, to really understand how we can sequence therapies or deescalate therapies when patients have minimal burden of disease, again, to decrease the toxicities.  

Katherine:

Mm-hmm. Dr. Patel, thank you, again, for being able to join us today. It’s been a pleasure.   

Dr. Patel:

Thank you so much for this invitation. I really enjoyed speaking with you.  

Katherine:

And thank you to all of our partners. To learn more about lung cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for being with us.  

Thriving With Lung Cancer: What You Should Know About Care and Treatment Resource Guide

Download Guide

PEN-172_1108ThriveLung_Guide_F

Download Guide

See More from Thrive Lung Cancer

If You Have Lungs, You Can Get Lung Cancer: Teri’s Story

If You Have Lungs, You Can Get Lung Cancer: Teri’s Story from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Lung cancer patient Teri shares her experience with stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Watch as she discusses the symptoms she experienced, her extended journey to diagnosis, and key learnings that kept her on the path to empowerment.

See More from Best Lung Cancer Care

Related Resource:

How Can I Get the Best Lung Cancer Care?

Stage IV Metastatic NSCLC Shares Key Learnings on Her Journey

Lung Cancer Treatment Landscape Overview


Transcript:

​​My name is Teri, and I was diagnosed with stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in June of 2018. My lung cancer diagnosis was delayed as I was helping my mom deal with her own lung cancer journey.

My journey to diagnosis started with severe abdominal pain that was diagnosed as diverticulitis. During my hospital stay for abdominal pain, my scan showed a spot on one lung. In retrospect, I should not have brushed this off, but I wasn’t concerned since I’d never been a smoker. Almost a year later, I had a CT scan that showed my nodules had grown, and I was referred to an oncologist.

My surgery was scheduled to remove the middle and lower portions of my right lung, as each had a large mass. The weekend before surgery, I wanted to find my “baseline” for activity level. So I hiked, rode my bicycle, gardened, and kayaked with no indication that ANYTHING was wrong. My oxygen level was always 100 percent, and my energy level felt normal.

My surgery was successful, and I came away with clear margins and nothing found in my surrounding lymph nodes. I had several rounds of chemo following my surgery and had scans done every 6 months. However at the one-year mark, there were signs of recurrence. 

I felt ready to continue with my life but needed to get the remaining upper lobe removed. My surgeon told me the surgery would be “a morbidly serious procedure.” He said this three times during a single appointment.

The surgery was successful, but I had many “morbidly serious” incidents. I made it through with my husband’s amazing support.

Today, I lead a very full and active life with one lung. I am currently cancer-free. My desire is to be a support person for newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. I want to be a ray of hope for other patients so that they know they are not alone.

Some things that I learned during my lung cancer journey include:

  •   Pay attention when unusual lab results or scans come back even if you’re a non-smoker.
  •   Energy levels will not always be an accurate gauge of cancer in your body.
  •   My husband was an incredible source of support during my lung cancer journey.
  •   I am happy to share my story if it helps even one person feel they are not alone.

These actions are key to staying on your path to empowerment.