Fleet Science Center cancer series kicks off with lung cancer discussion

| Written by Monica May
Fleet Science Center-Garth Powis, Steven Snyder, Hatim Husain

New lung cancer treatments are making a difference for patients. Pill-based, personalized medicines and immunotherapies are allowing some individuals to survive for years instead of months. Still, lung cancer remains the deadliest cancer—killing more people each year than breast, prostate and colorectal cancer combined. 

To help the public better understand the newly available medicines—and the research advances on the horizon—our Institute teamed up with the Fleet Science Center to host a panel discussion on Sunday, August 18. 

“Many people who live in San Diego aren’t aware of the incredible research advances taking place in their backyard, especially in cancer,” said speaker Garth Powis, D. Phil., professor and director of Sanford Burnham Prebys’ National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center (on left). “We hope this discussion and future events will help more people understand cancer research and the breakthroughs that might come from their own community.”

Powis was joined by Hatim Husain, M.D., a clinician at UC San Diego (on right); and Steven Snyder, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Fleet Science Center (center), who moderated the discussion. The speakers described how targeted treatments, which are only prescribed if a patient’s tumor has a specific mutation; and immunotherapies, which harness a patient’s immune system to melt the tumor, are extending survival for lung cancer patients. Husain expressed excitement surrounding new blood tests to detect lung cancer—which he hopes will be more commonplace in five to ten years. The speakers also noted that advances made in lung cancer have the potential to extend to other tumor types. 

“Many of the mutations that drive lung cancers are found in other tumors,” said Husain. “Targeted treatments that shrink lung tumors are being studied broadly in patients with a variety of cancers.” 

Powis and Husain also touched on their own collaboration to learn how lung cancer becomes resistant to treatment. Fluid buildup in the pleural space, the area between the lungs and chest wall, is often removed during routine checkups to help patients breathe. Working with Husain, Powis’ team is tracking the cellular and molecular makeup of this pleural fluid over the course of the disease. By regularly analyzing this fluid, they hope to gain insights into how lung cancer becomes treatment resistant and how it can be stopped.

“Scientists are getting close to mapping all of the mutations that drive lung cancer growth,” said Powis. “One day, patients may take one pill that contains all the anti-cancer compounds they need to fight the tumor.”

Upcoming topics in the series include breast, brain, and pancreatic cancer and more. The events will take place from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on select Sundays in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater at the Fleet Science Center in San Diego. Space is limited. Reserve your ticket today. 

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