Changing the Game


James K.V. Willson, M.D. Director, Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

Pervasive and particularly deadly, lung cancer has remained intractable even as other cancers have yielded more readily to treatment advances. But science is steadily shedding light on therapeutic approaches that may begin to turn the odds of beating the disease in lung cancer patients’ favor.

Identifying effective treatments, and speeding their delivery to patients who need them now, has been a defining mission of lung cancer physicians and scientists at UT Southwestern for nearly a quarter-century. That’s when Drs. John Minna and Adi Gazdar arrived from the National Cancer Institute—bringing with them an expanding collection of lung cancer cell lines, curated by Dr. Gazdar and linked with clinical data, that today is used in scientific investigations worldwide. At UT Southwestern, the collection has been a functional and symbolic centerpiece of a diverse and far-reaching lung cancer program, regarded among peers to be at the forefront of not just discovery, but clinical care.

Simmons Cancer Center has recruited and nurtured an unusually deep bench of lung cancer physician-scientists, who are urgently generating new research findings and translating them for practical application, and of clinical innovators, who are developing and delivering safer and more effective therapies. This dynamic lung cancer team is captained by a trio of physicians—Drs. Joan Schiller, Hak Choy, and Kemp Kernstine—who themselves are pacesetters in their respective fields of medical oncology, radiation oncology, and thoracic surgery. Besides providing the latest high-quality care to patients and extensive support to physicians in the community, a key priority of the lung cancer program is ensuring that an array of clinical trials is available, expanding the range of treatment options for people desperately in need of new solutions.

Vanquishing a foe as formidable as lung cancer will require novel scientific strategies encompassing multiple disciplines of research and care. As described in this book, Simmons Cancer Center has achieved such innovations—potential gamechangers—and has incorporated them into a clinical infrastructure designed at every step to provide lung cancer patients the best of treatment, and their best chance of beating the odds.