“We have a tremendous opportunity to make advances in lung cancer therapy. If we work hard and put our resources into it, we’ll improve tailored treatments and extend them to a much broader population of lung cancer patients.” ─ Scott M. Lippman, MD
Each week, Dr. Scott Lippman, a highly sought-after lung cancer expert, has to tell certain patients that there is nothing more he can do to help them survive. And he hates it.
“In my clinic, when I’m seeing patients with lung cancer that we can’t contain, I feel like we need to do better,” he says.
Seeing terminal lung cancer patients week after week drove him to try a new approach to lung cancer treatment. Dr. Lippman, who was then Chairman of the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, led his department to a major breakthrough in personalized, or tailored, medicine for lung cancer patients.
By coordinating faculty and aligning multidisciplinary resources, Dr. Lippman’s department quickly and efficiently conducted a large clinical trial that has changed the approach to lung cancer clinical trials worldwide. This trial, called BATTLE, was designed to point scientists in the direction of a more personalized approach to treating lung cancer. Dr. Lippman’s team conducted new biopsies and created new molecular profiles of lung cancer in patients who were unresponsive to their treatment regime. These new biopsies and profiles showed that tumors that never responded or stopped responding to therapy may have evolved new molecular characteristics.
Based on the success of the BATTLE trial, Dr. Lippman’s department has launched BATTLE-2, with exciting combinations of targeted agents, and BATTLE-Frontline, which is studying personalized combinations of chemotherapy and targeted agents in patients with previously untreated metastatic disease.
The success of the BATTLE trials has earned Dr. Lippman a reputation for scientific excellence and exceptional leadership skills. He currently serves as the prestigious Director of the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego.
Overall, Dr. Lippman is working to turn lung cancer into a condition that can be managed long-term, a chronic disease, with oncologists “monitoring and changing treatments as the biology of the tumor evolves. In the next five to ten years or so, lung cancer patients could be living substantially longer, thus completely changing the outlook for this disease.”
But there is a major obstacle to reaching Dr. Lippman’s goal ─ money. “We are starting to see clinical advances we’ve never seen before, but research funding is low. This is the worst time to have a money crunch because there is a lot of critical research on the cusp of making big clinical advances.”
Fortunately, funding from alternative sources, like LUNGevity, does make a difference. “The National Cancer Institute funds grants across many different cancer types, while LUNGevity focuses entirely on high-risk/high-reward lung cancer research that will give rapid benefits,” says Dr. Lippman, who proudly serves on the LUNGevity Scientific Advisory Board.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to make advances in lung cancer therapy,” explains Dr. Lippman. “If we work hard and put our resources into it, we’ll improve tailored treatments and extend them to a much broader population of lung cancer patients.”