SCCA recently launched a Thoracic Oncology Multispecialty Clinic (TOMC) to bring multidisciplinary care to patients with lung cancer and other thoracic cancers. The clinic unites top thoracic surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists to evaluate patients and design customized treatment plans. It merges this expertise with one of the nation’s most robust clinical trials programs. And it conducts initial appointments and clinical trial evaluations via telehealth, enabling patients to meet with different specialists during a single virtual appointment.
“When COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of virtual care, it presented the perfect opportunity for us to launch a multidisciplinary clinic that allows physicians at different locations to see the same patient,” says Christina Baik, MD, MPH. “It saves the patient from traveling to multiple clinics, and it enables our team to collaborate and design treatment plans that include surgery, systemic therapy, radiotherapy or even clinical trials, depending on a patient’s needs.”
Care from top experts
The creation of the new clinic makes it easier for referring providers and patients to access one of the region’s largest and most comprehensive multidisciplinary thoracic oncology teams.
It can often be difficult for referring physicians to know if the patient should see a surgeon or medical oncologist first, or if they should be referred for proton therapy or standard radiation. A referral to the TOMC helps physicians avoid these dilemmas.
“We can review the patient’s history and triage patients, so they see the appropriate specialists right from the beginning,” Dr. Baik says.
These specialists include some of the nation’s top thoracic surgeons and oncologists.
“Our surgeons are well known nationally, and we see more patients with lung cancer than almost any other center in the region,” Dr. Baik says. “That gives us the experience to know which combination of treatments will give each individual patient the best opportunity for a good outcome.”
Integrating proton therapy into care
For some patients, treatment can include proton therapy that targets tumors more precisely than traditional radiation, minimizing damage to surrounding tissue. SCCA is home to the only proton therapy center in the Northwest.
“We have extensive experience with proton therapy, which means we can determine when proton therapy is right for a patient and can integrate it into their overall treatment,” Dr. Baik says.
Innovative clinical trials
One advantage of sending patients to SCCA is that we offer unparalleled access to clinical trials via our partnership with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
“We consider every patient as a potential clinical trial participant, and we’re playing a leading role in some of the most promising new approaches and treatments,” Dr. Baik says.
For instance, we offer access to an innovative radiation approach via a Phase 2 clinical trial initiated by our radiation oncology colleagues at the University of Washington. The trial, which is open to certain patients with stage 3 lung cancer, evaluates patients during their treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, by using a PET (positron emission computed tomography) to determine how their cancer is responding. If there are areas of their tumor that aren’t responding, we direct a boost of radiation to those areas.
“It’s a more tailored approach that we hope will improve outcomes,” Dr. Baik says.
We’re also offering a Phase 3 trial of an approach that delivers both chemotherapy and the immunotherapy drug Durvalumab prior to surgery for non-small cell lung cancer.
“We’re very interested to see if adding immunotherapy leads to better outcomes, and this trial is a good example of how surgeons and oncologists are collaborating to find ways to improve care,” Dr. Baik says.
For their initial visit to the clinic, patients visit a single “room” and see all the relevant specialists in succession. This makes care convenient for patients, and it makes it easy for our team to gather information and collaborate.
“We’re hopeful that this virtual approach will allow us to give more patients access to the best possible therapies for their disease,” Dr. Baik says.
It’s all part of SCCA’s push to keep extending survival for patients with lung cancer.
“The progress in our field has been amazing — in just couple of decades, we’ve gone from only being able to offer a small handful of chemotherapies for metastatic disease, to an explosion of immunotherapies and personalized targeted therapies,” Dr. Baik says. “It gives us hope that we can go beyond controlling the disease and get to the point where we have cures.”
For thoracic oncology referrals, contact