Suman Rao, MD
Suman Rao, MD, is a national leader in research aimed at bringing new immunotherapy medicines to lung cancer patients that, in some cases, have quadrupled five-year survival rates.
Fellowship-trained, Dr. Rao is experienced in treating lung and breast cancer. She is a medical oncologist, board certified in hematology and medical oncology as well as internal medicine. Dr. Rao is the director of Thoracic Oncology at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.
Dr. Rao co-authored a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that resulted in an immunotherapy medicine, Keytruda, being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a first-line treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer.
A member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Rao is a strong proponent of clinical trials and encourages eligible patients to take advantage of the many opportunities to participate in such trials at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.
She also serves as the Tumor Board Coordinator for MedStar Health Cancer Network and physician liaison of the Quality Oncology Program Improvement.
Dr. Rao is fluent in Hindi. When she is not practicing medicine, Dr. Rao enjoys traveling, reading, cooking and spending time with her children. She is passionate about educating all children and serves as co-chair for the Medical Staff Scholarship fund for children of the medical staff at MedStar Franklin Square.
Lung Cancer Treatment
Clinical trials at MedStar Health Cancer Network offer lung cancer patients the opportunity to receive promising treatments, such as immunotherapy, long before they are available in most other programs. Read more...
Research Study in Focus: Innovative treatment a game-changer with lung cancer
Chemotherapy has very limited success for patients with non-small cell lung cancer at Stage 4, which means that cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent. Read more...
But new immunotherapy treatments, which were approved by the Food and Drug Administration after clinical trials at MedStar Health and elsewhere, have given new hope to these patients. The five-year survival rate quadruples when immunotherapy is used.MedStar enrolled more patients in the clinical trial than any other test site in the country, giving those patients access to the life-saving medicines years before they were commonly available.
The immune system uses cells called T cells to detect and fight infections and diseases, including cancer. Non-small cell cancer cells may use what is called the PD-1 pathway to hide from T cells, preventing them from attacking cancer cells, and allowing the cancer to grow and spread.But Keytruda was found to block the PD-1 pathway and help prevent the cancer cells from hiding.“We were very pleased to be a clinical trial site for Keytruda,” said Dr. Rao. “The results were nothing short of amazing, with one of our patients now cancer-free after two years. She had been treated unsuccessfully with chemotherapy and fully expected to die before enrolling in the Keytruda clinical trial.”
“Immunotherapy shows great promise for treating other types of cancer as well, and we are proud to be able to continue actively researching those possibilities,” she said.