GPS-like system helps doctors track lung cancer

GPS-like system helps doctors track lung cancer

This year, 250,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed. Many will be fatal. But doctors are using new technology to navigate right to the source of the cancer.

Lung cancer nodules move every time a person breathes, making it incredibly difficult for doctors to pinpoint their location. But now, some surgeons are using an electromagnetic system to track the deadly cancer.

The technology that is guiding Dr. Aldo Parodi as he examines the lungs is very much like what drivers use daily to navigate the roadway.

“It’s similar to the GPS,” Parodi said.

The Veran SPiN’s Thoracic Navigation System has electromagnetic sensors that are placed on the patient’s chest. They pinpoint deadly cancer nodules inside as Parodi uses the bronchoscope.

“So, I am seeing what I am doing in real time, at all times,” Parodi said.

That’s critical, because lung cancer nodules move when a patient breathes, making them nearly impossible to pinpoint and remove.

“It’s going to enable Dr. Parodi to see probably 90 percent more of that tumor than he could with just a regular CAT scan,” Ernie Gottfried said.

When Ernie first found out he had a carcinoid tumor, his thoughts turned to an old habit.

“Every freshman that I knew when I started college, we all smoked,” he said.

Ernie quit 18 years ago. Even with his smoking history, Ernie has good lung capacity and doctors believe he will benefit from this early interventional technique.

“He doesn’t have to open me up, but it will be like my whole chest is wide open and he can see everything,” he said.

It takes just a click of the mouse to diagnose and plot a course of treatment for early-stage lung cancer.

Survival rates plummet when lung cancer is diagnosed at Stage 3 or 4, and that’s when most lung cancers are diagnosed.

Right now, 260 hospitals nationwide are using the new technology, which is covered by insurance.


BACKGROUND: Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. As they develop, they can form into a tumor and spread to other areas of the body. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women and the leading cause of cancer death for both by far. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. It’s curable, however, and more than 430,000 people alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point. Tobacco smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer, resulting in about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths. It can also be caused by exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, asbestos, and diesel exhaust. Black men are about 20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than white men. Most people diagnosed are 65 or older.(Source:

LUNG CARCINOID TUMOR: A lung carcinoid tumor is a type of cancerous tumor made up of neuroendocrine cells, which are found throughout the body. About 1 to 2 percent of all lung cancers are carcinoids. They tend to grow slower than other types of lung cancers, so most are found at an early or localized stage, even if symptoms have been experienced for a while. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and bloody phlegm, though about a quarter or more of people with lung carcinoid tumors experience no symptoms. More often than not, carcinoid tumors develop in the digestive tract. About two out of 10 carcinoid tumors start in the lungs. They occur more often in women and are more common in whites than any other race. Lung carcinoid tumors typically do not seem to be linked with smoking or with any known chemicals in the environment or workplace.(Source:

LUNG CANCER IN WOMEN: Lung cancer rates have been falling for men while increasing for women in many countries, including the U.S. New research has found the hormone estrogen to be a significant factor. Researchers took tumor samples from 813 patients composed of 450 women and 363 men, and laboratory analysis showed that the expression of estrogen receptor beta (ER-beta), a hormone receptor that inhibits tumor growth, was lower in women than in men. This indicates circulating levels of estrogen could modify ER-beta levels. Hormone receptors could also be affected by cigarette smoking because there are higher levels of estrogen receptor alpha which promotes tumor growth, in smokers compared with non-smokers.(Source: