Good work by DMU student is good news for cancer patients

Lung cancer is the number-one cause of cancer mortality among both men and women. Among lung cancer patients, those with recurrent non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are often medically inoperable. Often, their chief option is daily treatments that bathe the lung in radiation. But scientists, including those at DMU, are exploring a better approach: high doses of radiation specifically targeted at the lung tumors using stereotactic body radiation therapy, administered by a robotic system.

The DMU scientists involved in this research are Justin Costello, D.O.’11; Edward Finnerty, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology; and David Strom, Ph.D., associate professor, who worked with members of Mercy Medical Center’s radiation oncology department, Des Moines. Their abstract about preliminary treatment results among 28 patients with recurrent NSCLC was selected for a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), Oct. 31-Nov. 4 in San Diego.

“This approach has been well-tolerated even among patients who have had chemotherapy in the past,” says Dev Puri, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Mercy who invited the DMU faculty to join the research. He praised Costello for his work on the abstract.

“Justin showed a tremendous amount of initiative and independence in terms of gathering the data, doing the statistical analysis and constructing a very well-written and timely abstract,” Puri says. “For a third-year medical student, this is an outstanding accomplishment, especially given the fact that a clear majority of accepted abstracts at ASTRO come from much larger academic institutions with very well-established clinical and basic research programs.”

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