Moffitt Cancer Center Recognizes Lung Cancer Awareness Month

October 30, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. — Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States and is the second most common form of cancer for both. More than 224,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States, and nearly 160,000 will die of the disease. Roughly two out of three people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 and older. Moffitt Cancer Center is leading the way in personalized treatment and research of the disease, and our experts are available for interviews during National Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November.

Harnessing Your Immune System
Moffitt researchers are developing treatments that use a patient’s own immune system to treat lung cancer, as well as prevent its recurrence. During the past four years, Moffitt has treated more than 250 patients on immunotherapy clinical trials, placing the cancer center in an elite group of hospitals in the country with similar experience. 

  • Anti-PD-L1 and Anti-PD-1 Trials — Moffitt offers clinical trials for patients with advanced lung cancer using a class of monoclonal antibody that stimulates the ability to attack tumors by utilizing immune checkpoint inhibitors. These treatments have been approved by the FDA for melanoma and could soon be approved for lung cancer, as well. These promising agents are being offered alone or in combination with other immune treatments.
  • CRS-207 Immunotherapy Trial — Moffitt is offering a clinical trial led by Scott Antonia, M.D., Ph.D., to evaluate the immune response of therapeutic vaccine CRS-207 in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This therapeutic vaccine targets mesothelin, a cell surface tumor antigen present on normal mesothelial cells that is highly expressed in many human tumors including virtually all mesothelioma.

Researchers Discover Natural Killer Cells that Fight Cancer
A collaborative team of researchers recently discovered a novel mechanism that lung cancer cells use to block detection by a type of immune cell called a natural killer cell (NK cell).  

  • NK cells find and destroy virally infected cells and also play an important role in detecting and killing tumor cells.  However, tumors produce high amounts of a protein called Transforming Growth Factor-Beta (TGF-β) that suppresses the activity of NK cells. 
  • Researchers led by Julie Y. Djeu, Ph.D., associate center director of education and training at Moffitt, discovered that TGF-β produced by tumor cells causes NK cells to make high levels of a molecule called microRNA-183 (miR-183). MicroRNAs are important regulators of gene expression. They bind to genetic components called RNA and target them for destruction.  Scientists discovered in the early 2000s that deregulation of microRNAs can lead to the development of cancer.

Clinical Trials Personalize Lung Cancer Treatment

  • Moffitt is participating in the Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium.The consortium represents the largest national initiative to prospectively examine non-small cell lung cancer tumors and match patients to the best possible therapies. The consortium includes 16 leading cancer centers across the country. The primary goal is to provide the most up-to-date care for lung cancer patients while collecting valuable information about the frequency and characteristics of abnormalities found in lung tumors to further improve patient care. The consortium is coordinated by a cross-institutional group of researchers and the Free to Breatheorganization. Eric B. Haura, M.D., serves as Moffitt’s principal investigator.
  • Analyzing tumors on the molecular level allows Moffitt to offer targeted and personalized treatments and clinical trials. Investigators are developing trials for lung cancer patients with EGFR, KRAS, DDR2, PIK3CA and BRAF mutations. Alberto Chiappori, M.D., Haura and Jhanelle Gray, M.D., are the principal investigators.
  • Moffitt is looking at new ways to utilize tumor vaccines by using them in combination with therapeutic approaches directed at the tumor microenvironment. Dr. Gray is using vaccines, including GM.CD40L in combination with other drugs on Moffitt clinical trial 16439 for stage IV patients.
  • Targeting specific mutations associated with lung cancer has shown good response in patients during clinical trials. Moffitt clinical trial 17340 tests drugs that can block the anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK) translocation mutation. Around 5 to 8 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer are estimated to have this mutation and are often younger and nonsmokers. Chiappori is Moffitt’s principal investigator.
  • Moffitt is studying a new oral therapeutic compound developed in the cancer center’s labs using plant saponins called triterpenoids.  Biologically active triterpenoids are found in peas, teas and oats. The synthetic compound is believed to shrink tumors by restoring host immune function. Ben Creelan, M.D., serves as Moffitt’s principal investigator in Moffitt Clinical Trial 17643.
  • For a complete lists of Moffitt’s clinical trials for lung cancer patients, click here.

Moffitt Offers CT Lung Cancer Scans
Moffitt offers a comprehensive lung screening program, which includes a thorough assessment of every lung CT scan by a team of multispecialty medical experts. Moffitt has received distinction by the Lung Cancer Alliance as a Screening Center of Excellence.

The low-dose CT lung cancer screening is available for high-risk populations. If you do not meet the screening criteria, you can still schedule a scan with a physician’s order. Appointments can be made with a pulmonologist in Moffitt’s lung cancer program to discuss the pros and cons of screening. The screening is available at Moffitt Cancer Center and Moffitt’s International Plaza location. To schedule a chest CT screening appointment, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488) or visit Insurance coverage for screenings varies. For plans that do not cover the screening, the scan will cost $150.

Moffitt Receives $1.6 Million Grant for Lung Cancer Screenings
Scott Antonia, M.D., Ph.D., department chair of Moffitt’s Department of Thoracic Oncology, received an infrastructure grant from Florida’s James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program.

The “Expansion of Enduring Infrastructure to Support Lung Cancer Screening Research” grant will help fund Moffitt’s comprehensive lung screening program. Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force approved guidelines recommending low-dose CT scans annually for older smokers. The grant will provide $1.6 million in funding for a three-year period.

Treatment Available at International Plaza
Moffitt’s International Plaza location offers access to high-quality services and exceptional patient care in a smaller, conveniently located facility at 4101 Jim Walter Blvd. Tawee Tanvetyanon, M.D., has a clinic at International Plaza. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488).

Specializing in Mesothelioma
Thoracic surgeon Jacques Fontaine leads Moffitt’s Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center. The specialized program of the Department of Thoracic Oncology offers a multimodality approach with a strong emphasis on clinical research to develop novel treatments utilizing immunotherapy and therapeutic vaccines. The treatment team — Antonia, Tanvetyanon and Fontaine — has special interest and expertise in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The vision of this center is to provide state-of-the-art treatment of mesothelioma to achieve a cure and restore quality of life to our patients. 

  • CRS-207 Cancer Vaccine in Combination With Chemotherapy as Front-line Treatment for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Trial — Chemotherapy is an effective treatment for mesothelioma; however, after chemotherapy is completed, the cancer eventually returns. Mesothelin is a protein found abundantly in mesothelioma. CRS-207 is a novel vaccine that has been shown to mount an immunity specific against mesothelin. This clinical trial is open to eligible patients who have never received chemotherapy for mesothelioma. Researchers hope the vaccine in combination with chemotherapy will be a significant step in successfully treating mesothelioma.

Stereotactic Radiotherapy Delivers Accuracy
Moffitt’s Lung Stereotactic Radiotherapy Program offers comprehen­sive radiation treatment that combines advanced radiotherapy technology with the strength of a skilled, experienced oncology team. Moffitt’s program is one of the largest in the nation and is the most experienced in Florida. Patients benefit from the latest image-guided stereotactic radiotherapy tools that allow physicians to sculpt or shape the radiation beam, as well as change the dose intensity and angle. This capability maximizes the effectiveness of treatment while minimizing radiation exposure and harm to healthy tissues nearby. All patients have treatment with real-time daily image guidance. This computer-controlled dose delivery allows treatment to hit the tumor site with pin­point accuracy and precise margins, minimizing complication risk. This treatment is effective for primary lung cancers, as well as for lesions that are metastatic to the lung from other sites in the body.

Thomas J. Dilling, M.D., is available to discuss stereotactic radiosurgery for the treatment of lung cancer.

Moffitt Uses GPS Technology to Drive Improved Treatment for Lung Cancer
Moffitt is harnessing two new systems to more accurately identify and treat lung cancer, improving patient outcomes. These new electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB) systems use GPS-like technology to find lesions, help stage suspicious areas for biopsy, and treat cancer found in the lungs.

The Veran and Covidien (or SuperDimension) systems use 3-D virtual imagery to assist doctors in finding lesions.  Lung cancer can be diagnosed much earlier with both ENB machines because they are able to locate cancers less than a centimeter wide.  The procedure is minimally invasive and helps doctors establish a treatment plan to help reduce patient anxiety and improve cancer outcomes. 

Both ENB systems reduce the risk of a collapsed lung during a biopsy, avoiding complications that can lead to treatment delays. Eric Toloza, M.D., Ph.D., is one of four surgeons in Florida using the Covidien system. Frank Kaszuba, M.D., oversees use of the Veran system to locate smaller nodules in the lung for diagnostic purposes.

Teaching Kids about the Dangers of Tobacco
Moffitt Healthy Kidz will hold a Dangers of Tobacco Awareness Education Seminar at 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at Richardson Montessori Academy, 9390 N. Florida Ave. Using models of healthy and diseased lungs, presenters will show the multiple health problems that can arise from using tobacco products. Children will also be asked to sign the Tobacco Free Partnership Hillsborough’s Tobacco Free Pledge. More than 2,000 children have signed the pledge since the program’s inception.

Need Help to Quit Smoking?
Moffitt’s Tools To Quit program will hold smoking cessation classes from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 12 at Moffitt’s Muriel Rothman Clinic Building, 12902 Magnolia Drive. The two-hour class helps participants prepare a quit plan tailored to cope with their nicotine cravings and triggers. Attendees will also receive four weeks of free nicotine patches. You can also meet Moffitt’s Tobacco Treatment Specialist from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Nov. 18 at Moffitt’s Patient Library and Welcome Center. Patient Education and the LATTE program will host a webseminar and teleconference call, “Quit Smoking Comfortably.” To register for this free webseminar, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), option 5.

LATTE Educational Forum in Naples
The Lung and Thoracic Tumor Education (LATTE) program will hold a special educational forum from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 6 at The Club at The Strand, 5840 Strand Blvd., Naples. Patients, families, caregivers and the public are invited to this free event. Dr. Scott Antonia, thoracic department chair and co-leader of the Immunology Program, will present “Immunotherapy Research for the Treatment of Lung Cancer and Other Malignancies.” The forum will also feature a survivor speaker who will detail their cancer journey during “Through My Eyes: Stories of Survivorship.” A  Q-and-A discussion will follow. The Faces of Lung Cancer project will be on display, and educational materials will be available.

Veterans Encouraged to Schedule Lung Screenings
In honor of Veterans Day, Moffitt is teaming up with the Lung Cancer Alliance and Vietnam Veterans of America to encourage veterans to call or come in for a lung cancer assessment, and if needed, to schedule a CT scan from Nov. 9-14.  

Many veterans are not aware that they are among those at highest risk for lung cancer and that screening with low-dose CT scans can save lives.The Department of Defense included cigarettes in K-rations until 1976, and consequently more than 70 percent of Vietnam veterans smoked. An estimated 50 percent still do. Studies have shown that risk is exacerbated by exposure to other known carcinogens such as Agent Orange, radon, asbestos, beryllium, diesel fuel exhaust and other battlefield emissions. Estimates of excess lung cancer risk and mortality among veterans range from 25 to 75 percent.

White Ribbon Soiree to Support Lung Cancer Research at Moffitt
The White Ribbon Soiree will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 7 at Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association, 619 Vonderburg Drive, Brandon. The evening of music was created by a circle of women who lost a friend to small cell lung cancer in 2012. Tickets are $75. Proceeds to benefit Prelude to a Cure, which funds lung cancer research at Moffitt.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of their “Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of nearly $2 billion. For more information, visit, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.