Recent Advances in Medical Oncology

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Dr. Jyoti Patel, a medical oncologist and associate professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, discusses the latest advances in medical oncology and personalized medicine, including the use of genetic profiling and targeted therapies. 

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power sponsored by Northwestern Medicine.  I'm Andrew Schorr. 

Lung cancer, of course, is a very serious condition, but progress is being made particularly in efforts to personalize care.  To help us understand that we're joined by a specialist in the treatment of lung cancer.  That's Dr. Jyoti Patel.  Dr. Patel, thanks for being with us on Patient Power. 

Dr. Patel

Thank you.

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Patel, first a little bit about you, tell us about your specialization at Northwestern Medicine.  

Dr. Patel:

I'm a medical oncologist.  I take care of patients who have cancers of the chest, so primarily lung cancer but also some rarer cancers like thymic carcinomas and mesothelioma. 

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Patel, you've devoted your career to helping cure cancer if possible and certainly helping patients have better outcomes and higher quality of life.  What are you excited about now in cancer news? 

Dr. Patel:

We've made extraordinary strides in recent years in the treatment of our patients.  We have a keen eye towards precision medicine.  That means really personalizing the treatment options we have with our patients, focusing on patient?centered outcomes, meaning quality?of?life measures.  We work hand in hand with multiple disciplines to really deliver optimal patient care. 

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Patel, one of your latest journal articles is about molecular profiling for patients with non?small cell lung cancer and how that can lead to personalized care.  Tell us about that. 

Dr. Patel:

Over 200,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013.  We know that each one of these cases represents an individual battling an individual disease. So when we talk about personalization of medicine and personalization of oncology, it's a whole host of factors.  We look at the molecular makeup of tumors to see if we can give targeted therapy to patients.  We look at patients' desires and family wishes and how quality of life and optimal outcome can be reached.  We really make decisions hand?in?hand with patients and personalize what we think are less toxic therapies for better outcomes. 

Andrew Schorr:

When you look over the last five years, tell us about advances in cancer care, particularly lung cancer and what it means for patients. 

Dr. Patel:

The past decade has been a really exciting one for lung cancer treatment advances.  We know that chemotherapy is much more tolerable, and we're able to treat patients for a longer time with good quality of life and controlled cancer. And many of our patients continue to work, take care of their families, do the things that are really vitally important to them. 

Where we've really made gains, though, is understanding the biology of cancer.  So we're now able to look for a particular marker and give a targeted drug for that patient.  That comes with great reward because we see that we can essentially turn a cancer cell off.  We see few off?target interactions, so patients have really few toxicities and good quality of life. 

We've learned also that we can give therapy for longer than we'd ever hoped.  Whereas 10 or 15 years ago we looked at survival often less than a year for patients with metastatic disease. In recent years, I have a whole host of patients that are long?term survivors and living with chronic cancer and having good quality of life. 

Andrew Schorr:

Tell us about cancer care at Northwestern Medicine and how your integrated approach can make a difference.  

Dr. Patel:

Northwestern delivers exceptional oncologic care, primarily because each patient has an entire team of health professionals looking out toward best outcome.  Multiple physicians across different specialties, from pulmonary medicine to medical oncology, surgery, pathology, radiation oncology, radiology, work to deliver cutting?edge care for our patients.  We really believe in bench?to?bedside medicine.  We want to find the discoveries that translate to good patient outcome. 

Not only do we have wonderful physicians that are dedicated to beating cancer, we have a whole host of other professionals.  We have nurses, medical assistants, mid?level providers, nutritionists, psychologists, social workers that understand cancer affects not only an individual but an entire family, and we do everything we can to support the patient, cancer survivor through their journey. 

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Patel, what gives you hope for cancer patients for the future? 

Dr. Patel:

It's been certainly an exciting time to practice medical oncology in the past decade.  We have so many new medications that make cancer a chronic condition for our patients.  We understand so much more about supportive care.  But it truly is bewildering.  High?stakes medicine means that we need to understand when to integrate new drugs.  We need to understand how to integrate the newest research findings.  We need to be able to explain this and guide our patients and their families through their journey with cancer.  We love this high?stakes medicine, but we have to remember that the patient at the end is the fruit of our efforts. 

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Jyoti Patel, medical oncologist at Northwestern Medicine, thank you so much for joining us on Patient Power. 

Dr. Patel:

Thank you so very much.  I'm so appreciative for your time. 

Andrew Schorr:

I'm Andrew Schorr.  Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on April 23, 2014