Elementary school teacher Lynda Fisher had never smoked tobacco in her life. Her family didn’t have a history of cancer. But at age 59, Fisher learned that she had a tumor the size of a grapefruit in her lung. When she came to Rush for treatment, Fisher felt a sense of optimism with Philip D. Bonomi, MD, that helped her during a serious time of need.
“People would talk about the tumor and its size like I had a death sentence,” Fisher said. “Dr. Bonomi and the team at Rush were the only ones who looked at the glass as half full, not half empty.”
Fisher has been cancer-free since 2007. As a result, she decided to support research at Rush that aims to create a simple blood test for earlier cancer detection.
“I’ve been granted the gift of 13 additional years to teach my students and see my children grow and establish themselves,” Fisher said. “I walked around for probably eight to 10 years with a tumor growing inside me and didn’t know it. If by taking an annual blood test, I could have found the cancer sooner, I’d have been able to start treatment before it grew so large.”
Areas where you can make a difference
Developing a lung cancer screening tool
Today, lung cancer screenings are less invasive and more effective than ever before. In recent years, hospitals’ use of low-dose CT-based (LDCT) screenings to detect lung nodules in patients at risk for lung cancer has become more common. The screenings are already improving survival rates; however, these LDCT scans only show the presence of a nodule, necessitating additional screening to determine whether the mass is cancerous.
We need faster, more effective methods to diagnose malignancies at their earliest, and most treatable, stages.
The lung cancer research team at Rush has developed and is in the process of validating a simple and cost-effective blood test that could address these challenges. The test helps to identify a marker that allows for a more timely and accurate diagnosis of a disease earlier than current tests.
Optimizing treatment for advanced lung cancer
A range of new “targeted” chemotherapies have recently become available to treat advanced lung cancer while lessening the toxic side effects associated with standard chemotherapy; however, physicians’ ability to match the right drug to the unique needs of each patient is limited by our current understanding of tumor biology.
Physicians and researchers at Rush are aggressively investigating the molecular characteristics that lead to a lung cancer’s susceptibility to particular treatments. This work has great potential for creating blood tests that help physicians select the most effective cancer-fighting treatment targeted to each individual patient.
Stopping postoperative recurrence
A major hurdle in successfully treating lung cancer is detecting patients who are most likely to have their cancer return after surgery. The ability to identify these individuals will allow physicians to effectively promote long-term disease survival with the right postoperative treatment plan.
Rush’s lung cancer research team is involved with developing a noninvasive blood test capable of identifying a protein “fingerprint” that we can use to predict whether a patient’s cancer is likely to return. Our team of physicians and researchers at Rush have partnered with other medical centers, including Mayo Clinic and Washington University, to develop this important diagnostic test. We have successfully developed an initial version of this blood test that is currently undergoing a multicenter validation study required before it can be used in a clinical setting.
Support lung cancer care and research by making a gift online.