By Pat Carragher - November 22, 2022
Moffitt Cancer Center’s Lung and Thoracic Tumor Education (LATTE) Program recently held its annual Fall Lung Cancer Forum to celebrate survivors and treatment breakthroughs for this deadly disease. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. It accounts for nearly 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined
The event was emceed by Dr. Eric Toloza, an oncologist in Moffitt’s Thoracic Oncology Program. Toloza kicked off the event by presenting former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson with a white ribbon on behalf of the White Ribbon Project, a program that promotes lung cancer awareness around the world by making and distributing the signature ribbons.
“A great friend of mine, Chris Draft, lost his wife to lung cancer,” said Jackson. “She was 38 at the time. Having a friend touched by this disease, I had no choice but to support this cause. I’ve been part of Moffitt’s community outreach for the past six years and it takes all of us to make a difference.”
Following the ribbon presentation, Dr. Ben Creelan, a thoracic oncologist at Moffitt, showcased one of the latest advancements in the fight against lung cancer: tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy. It’s a type of cellular immunotherapy that extracts immune cells present inside tumors, grows billions of them in a lab and then infuses them back into the patient to attack the cancer.
“At the end of the day we know that immune checkpoint inhibitors just don’t work well for lung cancer patients with certain mutations,” said Creelan. “We have to do better. We’re trying to improve the tail of the survival curve, the number of people who are alive three, four and five years later.”
The event also featured a mock tumor board presentation. Drs. Andreas Saltos, Thomas Dilling, Melissa Tukey and Jobelle Baldonado gave audience members a look at how Moffitt brings together experts from different disciplines to ensure that every patient’s case is collaboratively reviewed.
Finally, the forum served as a launch ceremony for Moffitt’s new Lung Early Detection (LEAD) Center. It’s a three-pronged approach dedicated to evaluating, detecting and managing patients with early-stage lung cancer.
Only 5.7% of eligible Americans were screened for lung cancer prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the 2022 State of Lung Cancer Report from the American Lung Association, Florida ranks 41st in the United States for lung screening with only 3% of Floridians getting screened.
“The main reason people die of lung cancer is because we find it late,” said Dr. Lary Robinson, a thoracic surgeon at Moffitt. “This LEAD center is the first in the state dedicated towards early detection. The goal is to improve access to care, find more early-stage lung cancers and increase the cure rate. We’re quite excited about the opening of the center and we’re optimistic we can greatly improve lung cancer care in Florida.”