“Lung cancer is a multitude of diseases wrapped together. It’s not uniform. It’s not just small cell and non-small cell. This means we need to consider different causes and treatments.” – Nasser Altorki, MD
Lung cancer is a far-reaching and complicated disease. But that doesn’t dissuade a world renowned researcher like Dr. Nasser Altorki. He takes full advantage of the complexities of lung cancer. Using each nuance as a foothold, he is working his way towards his goal ─ ending lung cancer mortality.
“Lung cancer is a multitude of diseases wrapped together. It’s not uniform. It’s not just small cell and non-small cell. This means we need to consider different causes and treatments,” says Dr. Altorki who oversees the clinical lung cancer program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. In addition, Dr. Altorki is also a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Throughout his stellar career, Dr. Altorki has been tackling the problem of lung cancer from a variety of different directions. Through clinical research, Dr. Altorki has investigated the use of COX-2 inhibitors in the treatment of lung and esophageal cancer. In addition, he has helped develop clinical trials of a lung cancer vaccine and he has been very involved in developing methods for the early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer using CT scans.
His current approach focuses on the micro-environments surrounding tumors. “There are normal cells, like fibroblasts and inflammatory cells, in the neighborhood of the tumor. They are the unwitting infantry of the tumor,” explains Dr. Altorki. “But very little has been studied in this area. If we can understand the tumor’s micro-environment and target it, perhaps we can make significant progress.”
But unraveling and understanding a multi-faceted disease like lung cancer will take a lot of people working together and that costs money.
Because federal funding for lung cancer is so limited, directing LUNGevity funds responsibly is very important. “I usually don’t have the time to be moving from one board meeting to another, but this one is worth it,” says Dr. Altorki who is proud to serve on LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board.
His passion for attacking lung cancer from many different angles stems from the enormous number of people affected by the disease. “This year it is estimated that 160,000-180,000 Americans will die from lung cancer,” he explains. “It is the biggest killer in the U.S. and worldwide. Anyone who doesn’t think this is a major problem isn’t wearing the right glasses.”