Susan Garwood, MD
Technological advancements introduced in the field of oncology over the last few years are changing the way lung cancer diagnoses are made, but experts say more practices still need to utilize these techniques instead of standard tissue biopsies. For example, electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy is gaining increasing acceptance as a diagnostic tool for lung cancer.1
The bronchoscopic technique uses a global positioning system designed to produce accurate navigation to peripheral pulmonary target lesions. This can be used as a biopsy of peripheral lung lesions, pleural dye marking of nodules for surgical wedge resection, placement of fiducial markers for stereotactic radiotherapy, and therapeutic insertion of brachytherapy catheters into malignant tissue.
State of the Science Summit on Advanced Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer.
OncLive®: Can you provide an overview of your presentation?
I talked about how biopsy techniques really impact patients not only from a diagnosis, but from the importance of how you obtain tissue. We really want to inform those in the medical community about biopsy techniques—specifically,biopsy tools—to get large pieces of tissue with techniques such as navigational bronchoscopy and endobronchial ultrasound. These things, unfortunately, aren’t common all over the nation, but we do have access. It really makes a big difference to expedite care, get a concise evaluation and staging of the patient, and get enough tissue to do molecular testing—which is important to matching best treatment and personalized care with our patients. What impact have you noticed that this has on patients?
To me, this has truly revolutionized my whole career. When I began looking into new diagnostic techniques, it allowed me to realize that diagnosing earlier and shifting the stage of lung cancer required a better tool. Now, we have a better tool with navigational bronchoscopy in the ability to rule out distant disease with things that are safe and concise for the patient. What we have been able to see is that we can get to lesions we have never been able to get to before. So, those early-stage patients who have been in watchful waiting, or for whom we have just been waiting for things to grow, now we can connect them with technology that allows earlier diagnoses. We all know that an earlier diagnosis means a better chance of cure.
What are some of the next steps the field needs to start taking?
As we look into screening, we also realize that the same problem exists all over the country with incidental pulmonary nodules that are far more common than those we see with screening. What do we do to make sure that we are not taking patients who don’t have cancer to surgery? We need to be able to apply tools and techniques to help us look deeper into these patients to let us know not only if they’re high risk because of age or smoking, but what else can we find? What else can we look at? Can we look at nasal swabs, blood, or sputum to say, “This patient has lung cancer and we should do something instead of watchful waiting.”
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