Timothy Saettele, MD
The role of the pulmonologist in the treatment of patients with lung cancer has continued to evolve over time, said Timothy Saettele, MD. Moreover, the tools at this specialist’s disposal to diagnose and stage the disease have come a long way over the past 10 to 15 years.
“It’s important to realize that the role of the pulmonologist has been increasing in the treatment of [patients with] lung cancer,” said Saettele, an interventional pulmonologist at Saint Luke’s Hospital. “We do everything from the diagnosis of the cancer to staging the mediastinum, and in the future, we will have opportunities for treatment as well.”
Not only do pulmonologists play a key role in diagnosis and staging, they are also instrumental in managing complications associated with lung cancer, such as pleural effusions and malignant central airway obstruction, and in the management of associated medical diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. Over the past decade, novel technologies and techniques, such as endobronchial ultrasound and navigation bronchoscopy, have allowed pulmonologists to see through the walls of the airway and diagnose lesions in the periphery of the lung, which were previously difficult to detect.
In addition to these new techniques, liquid biopsies have been introduced in this space, offering a safe, noninvasive way to not only detect early lung cancer, but to also potentially identify optimal therapies, according to Saettele.