What Do You Consider to Be the Top Medical Advances of the Past 20 Years?

Ryan Syrek, Editor


May 27, 2015

The rise in anti‒tobacco use culture: Some believe that the decrease in tobacco use is the biggest game changer in all of healthcare in the past 20 years. The CDC cited the recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard as one of the great public health advances of the 20th century.

Recognition of asthma as an inflammatory disease: Asthma was once described as a reversible airway obstruction. The recognition that asthma is an inflammatory disease has led to innovative treatments that have improved the management and outcomes of patients with asthma.

Lung cancer screening with low-dose CT: Carcinoma of the lung is the leading cause of cancer death in both women and men in the United States. Unfortunately, an effective means of screening for lung cancer has been lacking. Screening selected patients with low-dose CT has resulted in a 20% reduction in risk of dying of lung cancer, compared with use of chest radiography for such screening. This technology is now being applied more broadly in the hope that it will have similar life-saving results in other conditions.

Targeted therapy for lung cancer: The treatment of lung cancer is evolving into personalized genomic directed therapy. The most therapeutically important mutations to identify in molecular mapping for optimized lung cancer treatments include EGFR, the EML5-ALK gene fusion, and the V-Ki-ras2 oncogene (KRAS). Agents have been developed or are in development to more specifically target the genetic makeup of lung cancer. How best to combine targeted therapy with traditional treatment approaches is currently an active area of investigation. Targeted therapy offers hope to the future in the treatment of lung cancer.

New therapeutic options for pulmonary arterial hypertension: Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a complex disorder resulting from restricted blood flow through the pulmonary arterial circulation. Improved understanding of the disease pathways involved in pulmonary arterial hypertension has led to new therapeutic interventions, including the administration of prostanoids, antagonists of endothelin receptors, and phosphodiesterase inhibitors.

Top pulmonology advances selected by Ryland P. Byrd Jr, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.

For more on the move to smoke-free, read here.


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