Skip to main content

On Lung Cancer | A Conversation with Dr. Sonam Puri

Read Time: 3 minutes

Video Transcript

As an oncologist, my hope is a cancer-free world. You know, how far are we from that? I don't know, but I definitely know we're getting closer.

My name is Sonam Puri, and I am a medical oncologist specializing in taking care of patients with lung cancer. So, in addition to seeing patients with lung cancer and treating them, I'm also a lung cancer researcher and clinical trialist. I work on finding new treatments for lung cancer.

The current state of lung cancer treatment

So, I think we've come really a long way. I think lung cancer is like the poster child of what we call as personalized medicine because over the last decade or more, we've really put a lot of our efforts in understanding how lung cancer is different in each person and trying to personalize the treatment according to it. So, we've done a lot of that in a type of lung cancer called “non-small cell lung cancer” in which now we know there are many targets that we can focus on, separate from chemotherapy. And that has really changed the clinical outcome of lung cancer. It's not only making people live longer, it's making people live a better and a happier life. We are working on doing the same in a kind of lung cancer called “small cell lung cancer.” So, there's still a lot to do and a lot to come, but I think we've also come pretty far from just giving everybody chemotherapy.

Why lung cancer is so difficult to diagnose

I think it's because it doesn't, patients don't have any symptoms, right. By the time you develop symptoms of lung cancer, it's usually spread to a lot of places in your body. It's already an incurable cancer. And we know that smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, but approximately, I think about 40% of patients have never smoked and they have lung cancer as well. So, there are many other causes of lung cancers that are under recognized like radon, air pollution, and specifically in our state [Utah], that's an important cause of lung cancer. We also focus on education about lung cancer surveillance. We know for a fact that if you've smoked for a certain amount of time in your life, you will benefit from getting yearly CT scans to detect those early changes that can be taken to a surgeon, and, you know, lung cancer can be taken out, and you can be lung cancer free. But for the majority of our patients, it's often too late.

Looking toward the future

As an oncologist, my hope is a cancer-free world. You know, how far are we from that? I don't know, but I definitely know we're getting closer. And a short-term hope is just improving the diversity and the equitability of clinical trial treatment. So as an oncologist, I know that clinical trials are our way forward. They are very, very important to our field. But we know it is challenging. There are many, many barriers to treatment when we're trying to recruit patients to clinical trials. But my hope is that, in the near future, we're able to get rid of those barriers and have these newer treatments open for everybody.

Cancer touches all of us.