Penn surgeon makes headway against a rare lung cancer

Quoted from http://articles.philly.com/2012-06-25/news/32394457_1_mesothelioma-lung-cancer-penn-scientists

Penn surgeon makes headway against a rare lung cancer

June 25, 2012|By Marie McCullough, Inquirer Staff Writer

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  • A monitor in the operating room shows a mesothelioma tumor (top right) just above the pulmonary artery as thoracic surgeon Joseph S. Friedberg (center) operates at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

A monitor in the operating room shows a mesothelioma tumor (top right) just above the right pulmonary artery

During a grueling operation early last year, when the intractable five-pound tumor seemed to mock his skills, thoracic surgeon Joseph S. Friedberg felt buoyed by what he and his scrub-suited crew had already achieved.

The University of Pennsylvania team battles pleural mesothelioma, a rare, ferocious, incurable type of lung cancer.

Typically, patients die within a year of diagnosis. Yet more than two years after treatment at Penn, 27 out of 38 patients – 71 percent – were still alive, including four who had marked five years. These were advanced-stage cases, ostensibly hopeless, and they were defying the odds.

Friedberg, who was about to submit a study on those results for publication, knew there would be skepticism. The number of patients was small. And the treatment was almost as formidable as the disease. He spent up to 14 hours stripping out the cancer while preserving the patient’s lung; then residual malignant cells were zapped with laser light therapy.

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