“The work we are doing is helping…Today I saw a
young man who has been living for 12 years with advanced stage lung cancer.
This is still very uncommon, but now it happens.”
– Philip Bonomi, MD
Three decades ago, Dr. Philip Bonomi was treating patients with many different types of cancer. But after witnessing the lack of sympathy for lung cancer patients, he rolled up his sleeves and began specializing in lung cancer.
Frustrated with the lack of treatment options for lung cancer, Dr. Bonomi began his work of discovering and developing cancer drugs. Today, in addition to treating lung cancer patients, Dr. Bonomi, Professor of Medical Oncology at Rush University Medical Center, also routinely conducts clinical trials.
“I was seeing patients with a life-threatening disease and I wanted to come up with treatments and discoveries that could change their lives.”
His efforts have been fruitful. Working in collaboration with other talented researchers, Dr. Bonomi was the first to show that a pre-operative cancer treatment combining radiation and chemotherapy was feasible. He was also involved in the development of three commonly prescribed lung cancer treatments ─ paclitaxel, carboplatin and erlotinib. More recently, his lab collaborated on a clinical trial that compared a new drug combination to the standard treatment. Dr. Bonomi is hopeful that this new approach will become a more effective treatment for lung cancer.
There is still a lot of work to be done, notes Dr. Bonomi. “Improving lung cancer screening has the biggest chance of making a dent in the mortality rate. By identifying biomarkers, we can help identify patients who are most likely to have lung cancer and we can use our resources wisely to catch it early.”
This kind of research is expensive and even the most talented scientists have a hard time getting initial grants to conduct their experiments. “Supporting early career investigators is a very important part of what LUNGevity does,” explains Dr. Bonomi, who serves on LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board. “It’s important to invest in future leaders who will keep the field of lung cancer research vibrant and productive.”
Dr. Bonomi is convinced that lung cancer research is paying off. “It seems to me that there are increasing percentages of people living longer with lung cancer. The first therapies are working longer and then patients can have 1, 2, 3, 4 more therapies that may work. When I first started seeing patients, there was only one treatment option for lung cancer and often it didn’t work.”
Nevertheless, treating lung cancer is still difficult, he says. “Sometimes you get lulled into a false sense of security with multiple successes, but a patient can go down quickly. That’s depressing and hard to watch.”
While things are still not as good as we’d like them to be, Dr. Bonomi is hopeful. “The work we are doing is helping,” he says. “Today I saw a young man who has been living for 12 years with advanced stage lung cancer. This is still very uncommon, but now it happens.”