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Puneeth Iyengar, M.D., Ph.D. Answers Questions On Lung Cancer and Radiation Oncology

Puneeth Iyengar, M.D., Ph.D. Answers Questions On: Lung Cancer and Radiation Oncology

What are the latest techniques in radiation to treat lung cancer?

UT Southwestern Medical Center is at the forefront of treatment of lung cancer with radiation. We bring real expertise in stereotactic ablative radiation therapy, which allows us, in certain situations, to reduce the number of radiation treatments but provide a greater dose with each treatment. By doing this, we believe we’ll have a better way to control the disease. This is called hypofractionation – delivering higher doses but still allowing for protection of normal tissues. Using the latest in imaging technology, we can also more clearly delineate where the tumor is and assess its movement in the body.

Why is cachexia an important focus for you?

Around 40 to 50 percent of all solid tumor patients get cachexia at some point in their disease, and it’s responsible for 20 to 30 percent of all cancer-related deaths. Cachexia is a wasting process of the body that includes fat and muscle loss and emaciation. It limits length of survival and quality of life, and lung cancer patients have associated cachexia more than other cancers. I believe that understanding cachexia and its basic mechanisms and figuring out how to reverse that process may do more to increase the lifespan of our patients than any other treatment strategy.

What role does radiation play in the treatment of lung cancer?

Radiation can be used to treat all stages of lung cancer. For early Stage I and II, it can be the main and/or only treatment in a curative fashion. In Stage III lung cancer, it’s used in conjunction with chemotherapy. In Stage IV patients with metastatic disease, it can be used to alleviate sites of pain or sites that are progressing that aren’t being controlled by chemotherapy.

Do lung cancer patients have access to clinical trials in radiation treatment at UT Southwestern?

We offer every major clinical trial that’s under way nationally and internationally for lung cancer patients. Specifically, we’re very active in institution-specific clinical trials, Phase I and Phase II, which patients can’t get in most other places. This means we generate the data, we generate the interest, we run the clinical trial, and we push the frontiers of treatment modalities and combinations of treatments, giving patients access to things they can’t get just anywhere.