Q: What inspired you to enter lung cancer research and treatment?
A: I was actually focused in breast cancer during my fellowship, but when I arrived at Sarah Cannon there was a greater need in lung cancer. Fortunately, I had great mentors in lung cancer during my fellowship too - so getting inspired was pretty easy. Additionally, lung cancer doesn't get as much attention in the media as some other cancers and often is viewed as a cancer that somehow may be deserved because of smoking history. We do need to help solve the smoking epidemic (especially in young people) but we also need to try and look past why the person has lung cancer and all pitch in and help them with their diagnosis.
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned from your patients?
A: I am always amazed when a patient is very sick, and the score doesn't look good and yet they are ok with that and are willing to take a shot at something new (like a new clinical trial or therapy) to help others.
Q: What are the latest advancements in lung cancer treatment?
A: There are a lot of exciting advancements in lung cancer treatment. I think more is happening in this area of oncology than any other. New advancements such as molecular targeting, immunotherapy, and revisiting a few failed strategies with better tools and drugs are just a few of the advancements that I see in my work.
Q: How have you seen immunotherapy change the landscape of lung cancer care?
A: It's still early , but it's hard to not get excited about the early signals. The fact that these therapies are so well tolerated (for most) makes immunotherapy really encouraging.
Q: What are you most excited about in the field of lung cancer?
A: I am most excited about the fact that we now have the tools to dive deeply into the cancer (even by studying tumor cells in the blood) and can begin to understand a cancer's behavior. That way, we can determine the appropriate therapy for that specific type of cancer.
Q: What is your greatest challenge as a physician and researcher?
A: I think my greatest challenge is that (foolishly) thinking I can divide the two areas neatly from a work perspective. The truth is that being a physician and a researcher go hand in hand. Spending the day focused on our research program is always a day focused on patient care too. The two pursuits can each be challenging on their own so I have learned to look at this as one job.
Q: How did you get involved with Free to Breathe?
A: I wanted to get involved with something that helps the lung cancer community and the patients I see each day. This is an organization made up of patients, survivors, community members, researchers, and volunteers all united to end lung cancer. It's a great mission.
Q: Why is supporting organizations like Free To Breathe important?
A: We have to think broadly in how we can make impacts in care. Free to Breathe is trying to go at this from almost a grassroots effort Ð by bringing the issue to communities and challenging people to learn and (hopefully) support the mission of ending suffering due to lung cancer.
Want to learn more about Free to Breathe or get involved in your community? Find out more here.