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Thoracic Cancer Research

Gregory P. Kalemkerian, M.D., director

The Thoracic Oncology Program focuses on the care of patients with intrathoracic cancers - including esophageal cancer, small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, thymic malignancies and mesothelioma - as well as research aimed at developing more effective therapy for these diseases. The program is staffed by thoracic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and nurses dedicated to providing patients with the best possible care. Members meet weekly in the Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Clinic and the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Conference.

A variety of clinical trials are available, ranging from chemoprevention studies to the evaluation of state-of-the-art investigational therapies. The team's expertise with emerging technologies, including stereotactic radiosurgery, radiofrequency abalation, photodynamic therapy, esophageal and airway stenting, ultrasound-guided transbronchial/transesophageal biopsy, and video-assisted thoracoscopy, allows for less invasive options in the diagnosis and care of patients with thoracic cancers.

For patients with esophageal cancer, transhiatal esophagectomy without thoracotomy was pioneered and refined at the University of Michigan by Mark Orringer, M.D. More than 2,000 patients have undergone this operation at the University of Michigan in the past 30 years, giving U-M physicians the most experience with this procedure in the United States. The operative mortality rate for this procedure at U-M is less than 3 percent, with an average hospital stay of only seven days. The Thoracic Oncology Program is also a leader in the development of combined modality therapy for esophageal cancer, a therapy in which patients are treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery in an attempt to improve their chances for survival.

For patients with lung cancer, optimal treatment usually requires the integration of multiple therapeutic modalities, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The U-M Thoracic Oncology team consists of experts in each of these disciplines who focus extensively on the care of patients with lung cancer and who meet regularly to determine the best management strategy for each individual patient. The U-M Thoracic Oncology Program has also developed and participated in numerous clinical trials for patients with all stages of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer to evaluate novel therapeutic strategies using leading-edge chemotherapy agents and radiotherapy techniques.

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