Fighting Cancer with New Medicines and Advanced Therapies
Lung cancer care is not the same as it was when Dr. Kevin Ridenhour finished his medical oncology fellowship in 2002.
Dr. Kevin Ridenhour
Medical Oncology & Hematology
“It’s almost completely different. Genetics and molecular targeting have revolutionized non-small cell lung cancer treatment,” Dr. Ridenhour explained. “One of the first things we do is look at the genetics of the tumor to help guide optimal therapy.”
Understanding a tumor’s genetics often reveals weaknesses, said Dr. Ridenhour, who is a medical oncologist at Owensboro Health Medical Group – Hematology & Oncology.
“Most of our treatments are more guided by molecular aspects of the tumor,” Dr. Ridenhour said. “The choice of treatment is based on the molecular markers (which show what drugs are most likely to kill the cancer cells).”
There are also advances in the drugs used to treat cancer.
"I have more options available to treat patients with, and the side effects of these drugs will help guide the ones you select," Dr. Ridenhour said. "Some patients that couldn't tolerate traditional chemotherapy are likely able to tolerate targeted therapies."
“I have more options available to treat patients with, and the side effects of these drugs will help guide the ones you select,” Dr. Ridenhour said. “Some patients that couldn’t tolerate traditional chemotherapy are likely able to tolerate targeted therapies.”
The rapid expansion of knowledge about cancers’ genetic makeup fuels a corresponding explosion in the number of possible treatments. With so much information and so many options, clinicians meet for “tumor boards,” where they review cases, share their expertise and help decide the best possible care for the patient.
“I go home and I get three to five different cancer journals every day. By the end of the week, I might have 20 to 30 pieces of information trying to tell me the latest changes,” Dr. Ridenhour said. “It’s hard to keep up, but we do the best we can. That’s why tumor boards are also helpful.”
Dr. Ridenhour added that the team approach happens within the clinic where he practices. Dr. Jacob Hodskins, the newest doctor in the practice, has eight years of experience. Dr. Dattatraya Prajapati, the most senior, has been practicing medicine for 46 years.
“I’m glad to be in a group of five because we all have varying levels of experience,” Dr. Ridenhour said. “It’s very helpful to ask each other’s advice.”
Having that amount of experience – both within the practice and throughout the health system – means patients can get the treatment they need without leaving Owensboro.
“We have most of the representative specialties. People don’t have to travel to major academic centers far away to get their treatment,” Dr. Ridenhour said.