Treatment of Lung Cancer

At UT Southwestern Medical Center, we treat lung cancer differently than other health care facilities in North Texas. Our experts, who are subspecialized to focus solely on lung cancer, create individualized treatment plans based on you and your unique cancer.

Treatment may include medical therapies, surgery, radiation, other specialized techniques to address symptoms, or a combination of these. You also may have the opportunity of enrolling in a clinical trial for access to experimental treatments in addition to your regular care.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatment is a term for “systemic” treatments that get into your bloodstream (either by IV administration or by pills that are absorbed in the gut). Theoretically, cancer cells anywhere in the body would be exposed to such treatments. Your lung cancer treatment plan may include systemic treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted therapies, or immunotherapies administered by a specialized lung cancer medical oncologist.

Medical treatments for lung cancer include:

Powerful medications that kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. This treatment can be used before or after surgery.
Targeted therapies
Medications that target specific mutations in cancer cells that are not found in normal cells.
Drugs that “boost” the immune system, so that your own white blood cells are able to recognize cancer cells and destroy them.

Our Medical Oncologists

Surgery for Lung Cancer

Often, early-stage lung cancer can be treated with surgery alone or in combination with medical treatment or radiation therapy.

The world-class lung cancer care team at UT Southwestern has vast experience with state-of-the-art surgery techniques and resources. We can perform advanced, minimally invasive surgery – including robotic lobectomy – that may successfully treat your lung cancer.

Types of lung cancer surgery include:

Removal of the entire lung
Removal of an entire section (lobe) of a lung
Segmentectomy or wedge resection
Removal of part of a lobe

The type of surgery we recommend depends on the size and location of the tumor, as well as your overall health.

Robotic Lobectomy for Lung Cancer

Lobectomy, or the surgical removal of a cancerous lobe in the lung, is the standard treatment of early-stage non-small cell lung cancer. Robotic surgery is performed with the surgeon sitting at a console, manipulating small instruments in your body. Because the instruments are so small, robotic lobectomy is performed through a few tiny incisions between the ribs, which means that you can avoid a large incision in your chest. 

Benefits of robotic surgery include:

  • Less pain
  • Faster recovery
  • Reduced chance of infection
  • Quicker return to normal activity
  • Less scarring

UT Southwestern’s Kemp Kernstine, M.D., Ph.D., was one of the first thoracic surgeons in the world to master the robotic lobectomy technique, and he remains one of the highest-volume thoracic surgeons in the country.

Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Some of the most groundbreaking achievements in radiation therapy in the last decade have taken place here at UT Southwestern in the context of treating lung cancer. Our physicians have pioneered the use of stereotactic radiation to treat early stage lung cancer, in some instances changing the medical standard of care for certain patient populations.

Using beams of radiation spread out over dozens of angles, stereotactic radiation is able to deliver a more potent dose than standard radiation therapy while maintaining low toxicity to healthy tissue. The ability to safely delivery this treatment relies on sophisticated imaging and planning technology, as well as a team experienced in performing stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR, also known as SBRT).

Radiation can be given as a primary treatment, before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it easier to remove, or after surgery to further decrease the chance of cancer recurrence. Research here has proven that inoperable patients such as the frail and elderly have a very high (97 percent) chance of cure of their primary tumor with stereotactic radiation, a giant improvement over the 30-40 percent tumor control rate with conventional therapy.

We carry out radiation therapy treatments for lung cancer with leading-edge techniques, including:

Combined-modality treatments
Chemotherapy and surgery may be combined with radiotherapy to create the most optimal results for the patient.
High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy
Some tumors growing inside the air space of the lung can be treated with a radioactive source placed directly next to the tumor through a very small catheter threaded down the patient’s throat and into the lung. This procedure involves coordination with other UT Southwestern physicians in the interventional pulmonology program.
Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
Advanced onboard imaging systems attached to the treatment machines allow clinicians to verify the tumor location and reposition patients as needed between treatments.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
State-of-the-art treatment allows doctors to use multiple radiation beams of varying lengths and intensity. The radiation beams may be moved dozens or hundreds of times during treatment, resulting in a radiation field that is “sculpted” in three dimensions. Rather than creating a uniform field of radiation, the radiation is delivered to precisely conform to the actual shape of the tumor, thus sparing the surrounding healthy tissue.
Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR)
Involves one or a few high-dose applications of radiation to a tumor, instead of the many smaller doses given in standard radiation treatment. Several radiation beams are precisely aimed at different angles to converge upon a small tumor.

Our Radiation Oncologists

Other Specialized Treatments

When symptoms of lung cancer cause discomfort or affect your ability to breathe, our interventional pulmonologists can perform aggressive interventional techniques including advanced bronchoscopic and pleuroscopic procedures.

Having two dedicated interventional pulmonologists on our lung cancer team is another unique aspect of care at UT Southwestern.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a lung cancer specialist, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.