New Korman Respiratory Institute a Breath of Fresh Air

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One in four Americans suffers from serious chronic or life-threatening respiratory diseases. Jane Korman, who was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago, was one of them.

Since then, Jane and husband Leonard Korman have contributed to the creation of the Jane and Leonard Korman Respiratory Institute in Philadelphia — a continuation of funding from the Jane and Leonard Korman Family Foundation.

It’s a collaborative effort between Jefferson Health and Denver-based National Jewish Health, the nation’s leading respiratory hospital.

The institute will strengthen treatment and research for pulmonary-related diseases, including COPD, asthma, interstitial lung disease, lung nodule and sarcoidosis, bronchiectasis, interstitial lung disease, and lung cancer.

The institute — whose formation was announced in April — is operating out of one of Jefferson’s 10,000-square-foot offices on Ninth and Walnut streets, which also houses the divisions of rheumatology, endocrine, women’s primary care, and radiology.

But it is expected to expand across Jefferson’s other campuses, spanning 24,000 square feet.

Planning for the new facility is set to be finalized by June 2018, and building and renovations by the end of June 2019.

From left: Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health; Jane and Leonard Korman; Michael Salem, MD, president and CEO of National Jewish Health. | Photo provided

The institute will also collaborate on research and clinical trials with the Respiratory Institute that National Jewish Health and Mount Sinai in New York established in 2014.

“[We] know what it’s like to live with a disease that threatens something as fundamental to life as your breathing,” Leonard Korman said in a press release. “It’s been our dream to help provide a premier resource for respiratory health for the community.”

Jane Korman conquered cancer with treatment at Jefferson, where Leonard Korman has also served as a university trustee since 1998.

Lung cancer is the second-most common cancer in both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society, which estimated 222,500 new cases in 2017 so far — and 155,870 deaths.

Lung cancer often progresses surreptitiously, so enhancing treatment for early diagnosis is critical.

Through the Kormans, the institute was able to hire three new faculty members and create two clinical research programs, as well as update existing facilities.

Gregory Kane has been on the Jefferson faculty for almost 25 years, devoting his time to pulmonary critical care.

In 2012, the Korman Family Foundation awarded Jefferson funds to develop a lung center that would be “uniquely positioned to meet the needs of our patients in the community and provide an enhanced level of service.”

He also maintains a personal relationship with the philanthropic Kormans, which has played an important role in the institute’s creation.

The institute plans to hire 10 more specialists on important lung diseases.

“If we can offer patients in these specific diagnosis areas access to the most up-to-date treatments, access to clinical trials, and to treat them in an environment where we’re also doing cutting-edge research,” he said, “we can really provide the best care anywhere in the world.

“We offer all of the key elements for a comprehensive lung cancer program,” he added, including preventative services, lung cancer screenings, access to high-level diagnostics, talented surgeons, radiation therapy options and medical oncology options.

“There’s been really a revolution in lung cancer in the last decade where now we have the opportunity to utilize specialized technology to identify novel mutations in the tumor cells themselves that allow us to employ some of the newer treatments in lung cancer,” said Kane, who was the division director of pulmonary medicine and now chairs the Department of Medicine.

Jay Finigan, director of Respiratory Centers at National Jewish Health, has also worked in basic science and clinical research within the pulmonary field.

“About 30 percent of our patients are not from Denver, so we have a lot of patients from the East Coast, so word gets around and people at Jefferson reached out to us,” he explained.

National Jewish Health will be working with the institute all along the way, “leveraging our experience and our focus in respiratory disease and helping them navigate” growth.

The pulmonologist, who has visited Jefferson every third week since June, hopes to help grow the institute to a “premier, renowned respiratory institute,” known across the country and eventually beyond.

Kane aims to replicate the National Jewish Health model in Philadelphia.

With the reduction of the cases of heart disease, incidents of lung disease have increased, Kane noted, so the need for an institute like Korman Respiratory is high.

Before the creation of Korman Respiratory, Jefferson had no basic science investigators on campus dedicated exclusively to lung disease, he said.

Now, there are six independently funded investigators, plus three within Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, with the hope of impacting future therapies for lung diseases and cancer.

“We would like to change the dreadful outcome for patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States by diagnosing more patients early and changing the overall outcome,” he said. “As medicine moves more toward the ambulatory arena, we hope to offer patients a one-stop comprehensive location for all aspects of lung disease.”

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