Geriatric Thoracic Cancer Care Program

Geriatric Thoracic Cancer Care Program

Brigham and Women's Hospital

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer accounts for more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast, and prostate). The average age at diagnosis of lung cancer is 71, and more than half of those diagnosed die within one year (more than 220,000 deaths in 2010 alone).

BWH is poised to lead the charge against this devastating disease. Our physician-scientists in the area of lung cancer have certain qualities: they are intensely curious and highly skilled; they want to pass their knowledge to the next generation; they are compelled to pursue answers to the toughest questions; and they devote their careers to developing solutions that will transform the options and outcomes patients have. A more apt description of Michael Jaklitsch, MD, cannot be found.

As the director of the Division’s Clinical Laboratory and surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program at BWH, Dr. Michael Jaklitsch is world-renowned for specializing in the unique needs of the rapidly increasing number of elderly lung cancer patients, as well as innovative efforts involving lung transplant. Dr. Jaklitsch is working on a number of projects to increase survival rates, minimize risk, improve patient care, and increase cost-efficiency. Here are a few key initiatives:

• Creation of a multidisciplinary center, the first of its kind globally, to support the unique needs of elderly lung cancer patients. This program will enable more individualized treatments, fostering collaboration among surgeons, oncologists, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, geriatricians, biostatisticians, and providers of alternative therapies.

• Advancement of minimally invasive surgical techniques that maximize postoperative quality of life in elderly patients. Elderly patients have a 13 times higher incidence of postoperative dementia after non-cardiac thoracic surgery, so the less invasive the surgery, the lower the risk of post-operative dementia.

• Continued testing and evaluation of a new procedure, called “ex vivo lung perfusion,” which provides a way to rejuvenate donor lungs. If this procedure proves to be viable in human clinical trials, it could dramatically increase the number of lungs available for transplant. Currently, only 15-20% of lungs removed from a donor are suitable for transplant, in contrast to 60-65% of livers.

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