What's New in Lung Cancer Care and Treatment, with Dr. David Johnson

Last Updated: April 27, 2017

Dr. David Johnson talks about the latest treatment advances in the care and treatment of people with lung cancer.

More Information

Guide to Lung Cancer

If you are having trouble watching videos, you may need to download and install the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. To see additional videos, visit and subscribe to Cancer.Net's YouTube channel.

Full text transcript

Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

What’s New in Lung Cancer Care and Treatment?

David Johnson, MD: Lung cancer is a cancer that originates in the lung.  There are two broad categories of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer which represents about 15% of all cancers of the lung and then the remaining are referred to collectively as non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Dr. Johnson: When lung cancer, particularly non-small cell lung cancer is detected at a very early point in its development, it’s often curable with removal by surgery.  Unfortunately only about 15 or 20% or so of non-small cell lung cancers are detected at that early point.  So more commonly, when lung cancer is found it has already spread into the middle portion of the chest, referred to as the mediastinum, or beyond which is referred to as metastatic disease.  If the disease is confined to the chest and the mediastinum, it still can be cured in some instances, sometimes with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy or sometimes even the addition of surgery in that setting.  Once the disease has spread beyond the chest, we can improve survival with various therapies including chemotherapy and so called targeted therapies.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Dr. Johnson: For small cell lung cancer unfortunately the overwhelming majority of patients, when they’re identified have already had spread of their tumor to a point that surgery is not an option.  So, individuals that have small cell lung cancer are almost always treated with chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy.

Increasing Number of Lung Cancer Subtypes

Dr. Johnson: Over the years we’ve learned that within the category of non-small cell lung cancer there are several subtypes.  adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma.  In the United States, adenocarcinoma is the predominant is the predominant cell type of lung cancer.

But for the most part the treatments didn’t vary that much, if you had a non-small cell lung cancer you were treated in a particular way, and if you had small cell you were treated in a somewhat different manner.  Over the last decade or so, we’ve really begun to parse even those subtypes into smaller categories.  Importantly because they identify subsets of patients that can be treated in a very specific way.

Personalized Medicine in the Treatment of Lung Cancer

Dr. Johnson: We often hear the term personalized medicine, that can mean a lot of different things.  When it’s used most commonly it refers to the targeted therapies and specifically related to an abnormality identified within the tumor itself.  But we’re also learning it’s not just the tumor that matters when we treat an individual it’s differences in the human being in the normal tissues that might be important for how we treat them.

Just last year at ASCO we learned about vaccines that could be used to treat lung cancers.  I have to tell you that, in all the years that I’ve practiced oncology I never thought that we would see a vaccine therapy that would be particularly useful for treating lung cancer, but we now know that in fact it is possible.  And some of the benefits accrue to patients not only based on their tumor but also on their normal tissues as well.

More Treatment Options and Better Outlook for People with Lung Cancer

Dr. Johnson: So we’re really in the midst of an information explosion if you will for lung cancer.  I would say in the last decade we’ve learned as much about lung cancer as we learned in the 50 years leading up to that time.

though one never wants to have lung cancer the treatment options and the outlook for patients who develop the disease is far better today than it was just a decade ago.

Where to Get More Information

Dr. Johnson: for any patient with lung cancer, cancer.net is an excellent site to visit. [typing sounds]

The information is evidence based and it’s been vetted by experts in the field of lung cancer.

it’s information that an individual, whether he or she is a professional or a patient or a family member seeking information can be confident that the data are representative of what they need to know about their disease or their family member’s disease.

[Closing and Credits]

Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

ASCO's patient education programs are supported by Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. ConquerCancerFoundation.org  

Special Thanks:

Dr. Mary Wilkinson, Dr. Raymund Cuevo, and the staff at Medical Oncology & Hematology Associates of Northern Virginia

Carolyn B. Hendricks, MD, The Cancer for Breast Health

Hasbro Children’s Hospital

Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care Health System

The Adele R. Decof Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital. The Miriam Hospital is a teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Video Footage and photography courtesy of:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Biomedical Communications

Moffitt Cancer Center

University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center

The opinions expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Requests for commercial use of this video should be submitted to permissions@asco.org.

© 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology®. All rights reserved

Sharing and personal publication of this video indicates your consent to the Terms of Use, viewable at: http://www.asco.org/VideoDisclaimer