Thoracic Oncology Spotlight: Dr. Joseph Friedberg

Illustration of mesothelioma research

Each year in America, approximately 160,000 men and women die of lung cancer and the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths for both sexes. Long linked to smoking, though not exclusively, lung cancer continues to devastate families, never discriminating between young and old. It can also be an extremely difficult cancer to tackle and researchers are consistently searching for new and better ways to address the disease.

One individual who has shown a very keen interest in the treatment of lung cancer is Dr. Joseph S. Friedberg of the University of Pennsylvania’s Presbyterian Medical Center (PMC). Friedberg, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, has been involved in countless research experiments and clinical trials designed to better the prognosis of those with lung cancer.

As a thoracic surgeon, Friedberg admits that his passion is beating that lung cancer monster. As an innovator, however, he’s not afraid to be aggressive and consider some things that are a little out of the ordinary.

“Every project in our laboratory is targeted at developing a new or improved technology that is either immediately applicable to patient care or will be directly translatable to the clinical setting within two to five years,” Friedberg says of his research philosophy. “We pride ourselves in ‘thinking outside the box’ and are particularly interested in targeting problems for which no effective or elegant solution currently exists.”

Friedberg has a special interest in photodynamic therapy for the treatment of lung cancer as well as other thoracic cancers, including mesothelioma, which generally attacks the lining of the lungs. He has been involved in programs and clinical trials that test the use of Intraoperative PDT in tandem with surgery on patients with Stage IIIB lung cancers as well as primary pleural cancers.

As the head of the Thoracic Research Center at Penn, Dr. Friedberg and his team have also been involved in the development of a PDT-generated autologous (the donor and recipient are the same person) tumor vaccine for both lung cancer and mesothelioma patients as well as those with other malignancies.

But while his work in the lab is important, Friedberg also values the opportunity to work with patients at Penn, striving to bring his research to the bedside so that lung cancer victims can view the future with more hope. This includes being skilled in minimally-invasive cancer surgeries that require shorter recovery periods and allow patients to spend less time in bed and more hours with family and friends.

Source: University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center

This is the first in a series of thoracic oncology physician spotlights we’ll be featuring throughout the month of November in observance of Lung Cancer Awareness Month.