Two miles. Spiro Drecolias, a high-spirited father of three and lung cancer survivor, lives and works just two miles from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in downtown New Brunswick. He owns and operates an auto body shop and towing service in Somerset.
Treated for cancer in June 2015, Drecolias credits his surgeon, John Langenfeld, co-director of the Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program and associate professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who relied on “the gold standard operation to remove a lobe in his right lung. It’s not trivial surgery but since it was early stage and he is relatively young at 50, hopefully he will be fine.” No follow-up treatment, just regular monitoring, is required.
For 16 years, Langenfeld has devoted his career to improving the survival of patients with lung and esophageal cancers as well as to finding a genetically-linked cure for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. “I think we are getting closer,” he says describing his lab’s understanding of a bone morphogenetic protein that can be targeted to suppress cancer growth. If “lung cancer wasn’t so poorly funded, we might be closer to using this compound in humans.”
When Spiro Drecolias showed up in his office last spring and said, “Doc, you’ve got to take care of me. I’ve got two little kids to raise. I owe them at least 10 more years,” Langenfeld, who is ordinarily low-key and always straightforward, recognized a guy whose story had more drama than most. “He was an interesting patient.”
“I could tell that this doctor was good right away,” Drecolias says. Feeling fine just four weeks after surgery and going back to work just a few days after the procedure. He has left his lifelong, four-pack-a-day, smoking habit behind forever – “I started smoking when I was 11!” And, he has …