Decades of Progress in Lung Cancer

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Topics include: Treatments and Understanding

Dr. Scott Antonia, chair of the Department of Thoracic Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, has been practicing medicine for the last quarter century.  From residency until now, he has seen the field of oncology progress from a nihilistic standard of care driven by palliative intent to a very recent and dramatic improvement where medicine now stands on the cusp of an explosion of therapeutics. But even with improved standards of care, Dr. Antonia does not believe it is enough for patients—they must investigate and participate in clinical trials as a means to access the benefits of the “next thing.” 

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners 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.  I'm Andrew Schorr. With me is the chair of the department of thoracic oncology, helps lead research here in immunotherapy, which is a very exciting area, Dr. Scott Antonia.  Welcome to Patient Power. 

Dr. Antonia:

Thank you. 

Andrew Schorr:

You've had a career that's spanned some years, so giving many years leading up to it and now where we are now, how would you describe the pace of change that you're seeing and you're part of as a researcher? 

Dr. Antonia:

So my perspective is, when I trained, I trained 25 years ago, so I've been taking care of lung cancer patients for 25 years.  And it's—when I first started taking care of lung cancer patients there was a very nihilistic approach, right?  Even—it was even very—it was a reasonable standard of care treatment option to treat people, just treat their symptoms, not even treat their cancer, treat them with palliative intent.

But then over the next couple of decades, you know, we learned ways, particularly with chemotherapy and anti-blood vessel therapy and molecularly targeted agents, to prolong people's lives, make people be able to live longer.  But that pace has been fairly slow.  We've not been able to make a lot of progress.  There has been clear progress but not a lot of progress over the past two decades. 

But now here, just in the last couple of years, there has been a dramatic improvement in the time that people can live, and again even some people, some people are living for a very long time.  So it's—we're right on the cusp here of what I characterize as an explosion of a large number of therapeutics that are going to be coming and becoming available to lung cancer patients in the very near future. 

Andrew Schorr:

Would you recommend that someone with advanced lung cancer check in with a research center and see whether a clinical trial might be considered for them and that they might consider? 

Dr. Antonia:

Absolutely. Most of the treatments that are available to lung cancer patients as standard of care outside of clinical trials don't cure people.  They provide a lot of benefit to people, and they're still a very important role for the standard therapies.  There's no question that they help people.

But oftentimes when people hear what those benefits are it's not good enough for them, and it's not good enough for us.  And that's why we have clinical trials, to find the next thing that helps people.  And, for example, the people who are participating in these—these PD-1 blocking immunotherapeutics that are now beginning to get approved, those people had access to those two, three years ago and—and wouldn't have had the dramatic benefits that they've enjoyed if they hadn't been involved in a clinical trial. 

Andrew Schorr:

As you look at what you've got going on, are you hopeful? 

Dr. Antonia:

Oh, yes, very hopeful.  So, of course, not everybody is responsive to this new class of immunotherapeutics, this family of drugs that attacks this one target, this PD-1, PDL-1 pathway.  So right now we are all engaged.  We here at Moffitt and across the world are engaged in trying to figure out what is going on with those other people who aren't responding and making good strides in that area, understanding what are the other targets that we need to interfere with to make these immunotherapies work in these other people who aren't responding to these PD-1 blockers.  

Dr. Antonia:

There's a lot of work left to be done, but it's going to be coming in rapid succession. 

Andrew Schorr:

Andrew Schorr, just reminding you to connect with where research is going on for you so you make sure that if it applies it's brought to you, you get the benefit of being part of science that may be changing hopefully for you in lung cancer. 

Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners 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 13, 2015