On May 1st, we celebrate National Physicians Day—a day to recognize all of the extraordinary people who help save lives everywhere. To celebrate, we are highlighting a groundbreaking research study conducted by a few of our thoracic surgeons at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

In a breakthrough research study, our incredibly talented thoracic surgeons at Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) have found a new way to treat patients with early-stage lung cancer. Dr. Ahmad Ashrafi, the Regional Division Head of Thoracic Surgery and the principal investigator of the clinical research trial at SMH, co-authored the study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Photo (from left to right): Dr. Chuck Wen, Dr. Nazgol Seyednejad, Dr. Ahmad Ashrafi, Dr. Sharon Ong, Dr. James Bond

The clinical trial compared two surgical techniques for treating patients with a specific kind of lung cancer (node-negative peripheral stage IA non-small-cell lung cancer). Lobar resection, the traditional gold standard since 1995, involves removing an entire lobe of the patient’s lung. Sublobar resection, on the other hand, only removes a portion of a lobe.

Dr. Ashrafi and his team, as well as the other doctors from across North American who were involved in the study, looked at ways to improve lung preservation in surgery for patients with lung cancer, and found that sublobar resection for smaller cancers has a similar overall and disease-free survival rate when compared to lobar resection. This means that regardless of the size of the cancer, by removing a small section of the lung instead of a full lobe, they can produce similar results while preserving more of the vital lung tissue.

Since 2009, Dr. Ashrafi and his team have been working on this research study with 56 patients from Surrey Memorial Hospital. The process included treatment and follow-ups for nearly a decade in order to determine outcomes. The publication of their findings marks a significant milestone in the treatment of lung cancer.

This groundbreaking study opens up many doors to treatment options for lung cancer patients. Dr. Ashrafi’s research has challenged the traditional standard of care for early-stage lung cancer and demonstrated that sublobar resection can be an effective alternative for smaller tumors.

On National Physicians Day, we recognize the extraordinary people who help save lives everywhere, and this research serves as a testament to the tireless efforts of physicians and medical professionals in advancing the field of medicine and health care for all.

Read more: Research trial leads to new standard in lung cancer surgery