New Classification for Lung Cancer Stages Offers Hope to Patients

In a change that more accurately defines the prognosis for patients with lung cancer, experts in the disease have devised a new, more scientific system for classifying a patient’s lung cancer stages. The new system and its implications for cancer treatment are the subject of an extensive review by three nationally recognized experts from Yale Cancer Center (YCC) in the July issue of Chest, the journal of the American Association of Chest Physicians.

“Definition of the stage is an essential part of the approach to patients with cancer,” write authors Frank Detterbeck, M.D., Daniel Boffa, M.D. and Lynn Tanoue, M.D. Tanoue, co-director of the YCC Thoracic Oncology Program and Professor of Pulmonology at Yale School of Medicine, praises the new stage classification system, saying “It is crucial for correctly gauging the extent of a patient’s illness, so we can more precisely tailor the treatment or therapy to achieve a better outcome.”

The original classification system, the Yale doctors write, was based heavily on intuition, with limited corroboration from a small patient database. The new system, developed over ten years by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), is more complex and based on data from 100,000 lung cancer patients from 20 countries. It scientifically analyzes the size of the primary tumor and the extent of its metastasis to lymph nodes or other organs.

“This will provide much more information than we’ve had in the past, and will require a team of physicians to apply their collective knowledge to analyzing the data,” says Detterbeck, co-director of the YCC Thoracic Oncology Program and Professor of Thoracic Surgery. “But,” he adds, “in the end, it will provide better, more personalized care for each lung cancer patient.”

Established in 1974, Yale Cancer Center was one of the first university-based comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. Today, it is one of a select network of only 40 in the United States, and the only one in Southern New England. Bringing together the resources of the Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital, its mission encompasses patient care, research, cancer prevention and control, community outreach, and education. For more information on the Center, please go to

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