Paul A. Bunn, Jr., MD: A Conversation with the Executive Director of IASLC

Paul A. Bunn. Jr., MD discusses the success of the 14th Annual World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) recently held in Amsterdam as well as the benefits of membership in the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

The Group Room at the 14th Annual World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) was made possible, in part, by:

 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Selma R. Schimmel, Founder & CEO, Vital Options International:

This is Selma Schimmel for The Group Room at the 14th World Conference on Lung Cancer, WCLC; organized by the IASLC, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.  We are in Amsterdam.  And I am joined now by the Executive Director of IASLC, Dr. Paul Bunn- Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado in Denver.  Hello, Dr. Bunn.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr., MD, Executive Director, IASLC:

Good afternoon, Selma.

Selma R. Schimmel:

The energy here this whole time, these days has just been outstanding and it’s actually quite inspiring.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

I think so.  I think it’s a very exciting time for lung cancer.  Lung cancer has historically been viewed as a disease that people induce on themselves for which there is really very little hope and who cares.  And now, it’s been transformed into something where we have prevention strategies, early detection strategies, and treatment strategies, which are all benefiting patients.  A number of patients who are never smokers is increasing, and some of the stigma is fading away, and there is hope.  So there really is quite a difference from the past.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Am I correct in my estimate that the organization has been around an excess of 30 years?

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

That would be correct.  The organization is a little different from others in that it is international, which is the “I”, which it has always been since its inception.  And it is multidisciplinary; we have many societies or societies of surgeons or medical oncologists or pathologists, but in the IASLC it’s multidisciplinary.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Was it multidisciplinary from its inception?

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

It has been, correct.  Some of the more recent changes though, are even in the original mission statement it said that, we should be educating not only health professionals but also educating the public and we’ve been somewhat remised in our attempts to educate the public hence the support of people like you, who can bring the messages to the public, are crucial.  And, we need to interact with nurses, we need to interact with patient advocacy groups, with the press, with the public.  And I think over the next decade that will be one of the transformational features of the IASLC.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Well, I was struck at the meeting by actually what you just said, the number of advocates that you personally, I watched you engage with them- This was not an invitation of, ‘oh why don’t you come to the meeting’; this was, ‘why don’t you come to the meeting and be part of the meeting.’  And also, this very dynamic role of nurses in the arena of lung cancer.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

Worldwide, not just in the US, there is, as cancer incidence rises, which it still is; it may not be that the rates are rising but the number because the population is aging.  The number of trained oncologists is not keeping pace with the increase in the numbers and so, increasingly worldwide nurses will be called upon to deal with patients and another aspect is that as physicians have more patients they’re going to have less time to deal with many of the personal problems that are involved in cancer care.  After all, as physicians, theoretically, we’re supposed to do care, not just knowledge.  And so, increasingly worldwide physicians will rely on other colleagues, especially nurses, but PA’s and some other specialties to be involved in the continuum of care for individuals with lung cancer as well as other cancers.

Selma R. Schimmel:

While your mission is the focus, being on primary lung cancers, is there any benefit here for people that are dealing with metastatic disease of other cancers that goes to the lung?

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

First of all, not only are there metastatic tumors that go to the lung, there are other primary cancers that are in the chest.  So, the most frequent of those would be mesothelioma and second most common would probably be thymic cancers, cancers of the thymus gland, that’s in the middle of your chest.  Sometimes lymphomas that are in the chest are picked up.  The main value is that when you look at an x-ray and there’s multiple nodules, there is no way to tell from the x-ray or the CT scan whether those originated in the chest or whether they originated somewhere else and spread there.  And it’s important to distinguish those because the treatment is different.  Nowadays, with protein analysis and genetic analysis we can tell whether a tumor in the chest originated in the chest or somewhere else.  Since they are treated differently it is important to know.  Sometimes tumors that originated in the chest though, we do treat locally with radiation or surgery and those would ordinarily be handled by a chest surgeon or by a chest or thoracic radiation oncologist.

Selma R. Schimmel:

The esophagus and lung cancer- I’ve heard little bits and pieces in interviewing your colleagues about an esophageal association here and there.  What is the risk factor, let’s say for a smoker, of developing a lung cancer that can reach down to the esophagus?  We understand more about mesothelioma; is there any association?

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

So, first of all, smoking causes cancers other than lung cancer and the most frequent of those is head and neck cancer but then also, carcinoma of the esophagus.  So in terms of etiology and prevention strategies, there are some similarities between lung cancer and other cancers, some of which are in the chest.  Second of all, the esophagus is in the chest and the surgeons who surgically resect esophageal cancers for cure are often the same surgeons that are dealing with lung cancer.  Now, cancer of the esophagus is increasing in frequency- many of those are not smoking related, but some are.  The IASLC’s journal is called the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and of course, we publish articles about esophageal cancer, thymic cancers, mesotheliomas as well.  There’s an association of smoking with mesothelioma as well.  As you know, mesothelioma is primarily caused by asbestos exposure but if you are asbestos exposed and you smoke your risk is multiplied together.  So the majority of mesotheliomas are still in smokers.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Thank you.  I thought it was worth just mentioning that.  So we talked now about the journal.  It would be the perfect time for us to really segue into membership, the benefits of membership.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

When the mission of your organization is education and research a larger size would be helpful and you clearly, even if your goal is to educate the public, by definition, members are going to have an easier time being educated because they get the journal, they get the website, they get the webinars, and they can also then disseminate the information to others.  So any organization, any medical organization wants to be bigger.  It doesn’t want to be bigger because it gets more profit because these are not-for-profit organizations; it wants to be bigger to reach its mission.  And our mission is to reduce the lung cancer problem and our mission will be achieved better if we have more individuals and more diverse individuals.  As we mentioned, we did pretty well from the start on health professionals, but there are some people that we’ve left out.  So we need to have more health professionals involved in the organization, we need a more diverse health professional membership in our organization and we need the public involved in our organization.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Thank you, Dr. Paul Bunn- Executive Director of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, IASLC for organizing the 14th World Conference on Lung Cancer, WCLC, which takes place every two years.  I know two years from now we will be reconvening in Australia.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

Sydney, Australia.  And after that, Denver and after that, Vienna, Austria.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Thank you for inviting The Group Room to be here to help you in your communication efforts for patients, for your really humanistic, the nature of just how you are and congratulations on a really fabulous meeting. I hope as it comes to an end that you feel really good about your accomplishments here in Amsterdam.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

The largest meeting on lung cancer ever held.

Selma R. Schimmel:

Congratulations again.

Paul A. Bunn, Jr.:

Thank you.

END OF VIDEO

 

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