Advances in Field of Pulmonology Provide Promise For Lung Cancer Patients

Jul 9, 2007

Advances in Field of Pulmonology Provide Promise For Lung Cancer Patients

Date: July 9, 2007

Title: Advances in Field of Pulmonology Provide Promise for Lung Cancer Patients

Health Topic: Lung Disorders 

Contact: Melissa Chefec, MCPR Public Relations, 203-968-6625 For Immediate Release


"Interventional Pulmonology" brings effective new ways to diagnose, treat, and improve quality of life

Brooklyn, NY, July 2007 - According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women today. In fact, despite massive preventive efforts over the past two decades, more than 200,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone. Although lung cancer prognosis is often bleak - six in ten patients die within a year of diagnosis - an emerging field of lung care offers patients hope for better diagnostics, a wider range of treatment options and improved quality of life.

"Interventional pulmonology combines technologies and techniques that enable us to use non-invasive and minimally-invasive options at each step of the way in treating lung cancer patients," explains Dr. Arthur Sung, MD, the Director of Interventional Pulmonology at New York Methodist Hospital and one of the foremost experts in the field. After completing his fellowship under the world''s leading expert in Interventional Pulmonology, Dr. Sung established Brooklyn''s first Interventional Pulmonology program as part of NYM''s Complex Airway Center. In addition to practicing and training other physicians, Dr. Sung plans to engage in scientific studies regarding interventional pulmonology''s potential to benefit lung cancer patients. "We are expanding the limits of this field, which is in its infancy, to be able to diagnose faster and more accurately, treat more effectively, decrease painful invasive procedures, increase quality of life and, ultimately, cure more lung cancer patients," Dr. Sung adds.

Earlier, more accurate diagnostics

Using interventional techniques, Dr. Sung confirms that doctors can now stage lung cancers more accurately with ultrasound, and identify lung cancer in its earliest and most curable stages using advanced imaging techniques. In both cases, the bronchoscope - a small, handheld device that allows pulmonologists to view the airway and lungs through the mouth, rather than through a surgical incision - is used to access lung tissue for sampling and study. The bronchoscope can be fitted with small ultrasound devices, biopsy tools, imaging tools, other devices for diagnostic purposes.

In addition, the development of bronchoscopic techniques is leading to other promising techniques for early diagnosis of lung cancer, Dr. Sung notes. "A key reason for the poor prognosis in lung cancer is that the majority of patients present with late-stage disease which has already spread to other parts of the body," he explains. "There are very few treatments available today that are effective against advanced stage lung cancer."

However, a report in the March, 2007 issue of Nature Medicine1 reveals that a new test, made possible through interventional bronchoscopy, may be able to forewarn smokers that they are experiencing early cancerous changes to their airways and lungs - information that can facilitate early diagnosis and improved prognosis. The test involves analyzing "brushings" of the trachea and lungs acquired during a bronchoscopy for up to 80 different genetic tissue changes, all of which are associated with the development of the disease. In the Boston University study, the test returned a 95% chance of detecting cancerous changes in smokers, and a 90% chance of finding the cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage. While the technique is in its earliest stages and requires clinical study to perfect, Dr. Sung believes such breakthroughs represent a key benefit of interventional pulmonology. "With the right tools and knowledge, we can explore fully the potential to improve the lives of lung cancer patients," he points out.

More tolerable - and more effective - treatments

  • Interventional pulmonologists can now work with oncologists, radiologists and surgeons to provide a wider range of treatment options to lung cancer patients as well. "Prior to the advent of many interventional techniques, invasive surgical procedures were the only option for removing or reducing tumors...and often these tumors were considered inoperable, which left us simply with palliative measures," Dr. Sung explains. Today, interventional pulmonology enables the following new treatment procedures:
  • Interventional pulmonology can converge with other emerging medical fields, such as molecular medicine, to deliver experimental gene therapies to patients with genetic-based lung cancers
  • Bronchoscopes fitted with lasers can be used to reduce or obliterate previously inoperable malignant tumors, particularly those that obstruct a patient''s airway. This technique, while not curative, is effective in improving a patient''s quality of life by facilitating easier breathing without the need for ventilation or intubation. "What''s more, these procedures enable patients to comply with chemotherapy and radiation treatment schedules, which increases their chance of a successful outcome," Dr. Sung confirms.
  • Stents can also be inserted to keep airways open in patients with tracheal obstructions; using interventional bronchoscopy allows pulmonologists to insert stents, sparing invasive surgery or lengthy hospital stays - all of which can pose risks to lung cancer patients.
  • In a procedure called endobronchial brachytherapy, interventional pulmonologists can treat lung cancer with radioactive seeds implanted at the tumor site.

1. Spira, A. Nature Medicine, advance online publication, March 5, 2007

Bio: Arthur Sung, MD

Arthur Sung, MD is the Director of Interventional Pulmonology at New York Methodist Hospital. Dr. Sung received a BS from University of California, San Diego and an MD from New York Medical College. Dr. Sung completed fellowships in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Stanford University Medical Center and in Interventional Pulmonology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center training under Armin Ernst, MD and Kevin Kovitz, MD. Licensed in Internal Medicine, Critical Care Medicine and Pulmonary Disease Certified, Dr. Sung received recognition of medical care provided for victims during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and was honored