We speak to Witold Rzyman, Chief Surgeon at the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Medical University of Gdańsk, Poland.
What led you to work in lung cancer?
I am the chief surgeon of two thoracic surgery departments. As a field, thoracic surgery primarily deals with the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.
Almost 70% of patients admitted to our departments have either undiagnosed pulmonary lesions or a diagnosis of lung cancer.
Due to a very close collaboration with the Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy at the Medical University of Gdańsk, many of the patients that we have in common can be treated in a multidisciplinary fashion.
What does an average workday look like for you?
Surgery takes up most of my working day. I meet and consult with my patients in the outpatient clinic one day per week. Clinical work is completed alongside admin work and multidisciplinary team (MDT) tumour board meetings.
As a professor at the Medical University of Gdańsk, I have teaching responsibilities and lead several research projects. These mainly focus on lung cancer screening but also include the early treatment of lung cancer. I also participate in external meetings hosted by several societies and organisations I am involved with, as well as editorial meetings for academic journals for which I am a board member.
Regarding lung cancer screening in Poland, what is working well and what could be improved?
Good organisation has led to a high-quality service for thoracic surgery in Poland. Lung cancer and other malignant lesions in the chest are only treated in large hospitals, which are better equipped and more efficient at offering treatment (e.g. surgical resection).
However, not all of these treatment centres have onsite oncology departments. In general, there is a disconnect between cancer networks and family medicine (general practitioners) in Poland, which is an area that could be improved.
What motivated you to join the Lung Cancer Policy Network?
Lung cancer screening is the only effective way to improve lung cancer patients’ outcomes, which have remained unchanged for the last 50 years.
The idea of building a platform to support increased cooperation between doctors, patient communities and other non-profit organisations is, in my opinion, the right direction of development.
The Network seeks to occupy an important space within the emerging field of low-dose CT (LDCT) screening for lung cancer. The Network’s interactive map of LDCT lung cancer screening, which archives data on international research activities in this field, is a great example of this.
What would you like to see from the Network as it develops?
I would like to see the Network grow as a collaborative platform for all stakeholders. For example, the addition of research activities via its platform would enable the exchange of research ideas.
What changes would you like to see in lung cancer care on a global level?
I would like to see the worldwide implementation of lung cancer screening and a highly personalised modality for the treatment of lung cancer.
What do you think is the most interesting or exciting research finding in the last 5–10 years?
The evidence that LDCT lung cancer screening reduces mortality and saves lives.
Additionally, the effect of targeted screening validated in the real-world data from the National Cancer Database, showing a stage shift and improved survival in the general population five years after the implementation of lung cancer screening in the US.
Finally, clinical trials on the treatment of lung cancer patients with immunotherapy and targeted therapies in the advanced stage of the disease, resulting in the approval of different treatment options in various clinical situations and prolonged survival rates in this group of patients.
Outside of work, what do you spend your time doing?
Music and books are with me all the time. I also enjoy walking in the mountains.
The Lung Cancer Policy Network brings together a unique mix of experts in lung cancer from around the world, united in their passion to eliminate lung cancer as a cause of death.
We regularly share profiles of our members so that you can find out more about what led them to work in lung cancer and what changes they would like to see in lung cancer prevention and care on a global level.
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