Jul 13, 2018
When Raymond U. Osarogiagbon, MD, FACP, began his career in lung cancer in the 1990s, many questioned his decision to focus on a disease whose outlook was so poor. But to Dr. Osarogiagbon, patients with lung cancer were the ones who needed the most help, and this was the disease where the opportunities to make a difference were greatest.
While lung cancer care has improved dramatically over the past few decades, a patient’s geographic location often dictates their chances of surviving. As the director of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program at Baptist Cancer Center, Dr. Osarogiagbon is focused on helping all patients benefit from the latest advances, regardless of where they live. Since 2005, he has worked in Memphis, Tennessee, in the heart of the Southeast, where the lung cancer burden is the greatest and where outcomes tend to be the worst. Patients in the region are more likely to experience poverty, have less access to basic health care services, and have fewer cancer specialists compared to the rest of the United States.
For the last 6 years, Dr. Osarogiagbon has led an NIH-funded research study focused on lung cancer surgery. Data gathered during lung cancer surgery is critical to determining a patient’s optimal course of treatment. But according to Dr. Osarogiagbon’s early research, just 4% of surgeries gathered all the necessary information.
To help solve this problem, Dr. Osarogiagbon and his colleagues developed a kit that helps surgical teams collect the full spectrum of information needed to determine the best care for each patient. Within 5 years of launching this study with regional practices and cancer centers, data are being collected from more than 80% of surgeries. More importantly, Dr. Osarogiagbon has tracked significant improvements in patient survival as a result.
NIH-funded research, says Dr. Osarogiagbon, is critical to transforming cancer care. And now is not the time to slow our nation’s commitment to these kinds of studies—it’s time to invest even more.
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