CLEVELAND – With many of the nearly 1,000 attendees at the 7th annual Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit walking around the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center this week toting black bags with the words: "Cancer Cures Through Innovation" boldly printed in white, it's not difficult to pick up on this year's clinical theme.

But what some of those attendees may have been wondering as the conference kicked off Monday was – why cancer?

"Cancer treatment has come a long distance since the days when a lumpectomy was controversial," said Delos Cosgrove, MD, president/CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

Touching on a hot-button topic nationwide, Cosgrove said that, "healthcare reform is really about payment reform," adding that a broader discussion of healthcare reform is needed.

"Some people see new drugs and devices as part of the problem – we know they're part of the solution," Cosgrove said. He noted that in the long term, new technology is what brings healthcare costs down.

"Innovation is the long-term solution to high quality, affordable healthcare – that should be the essence of healthcare reform," Cosgrove said.

Further attempting to explain why cancer is the focus of this year's summit was Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, chair and director of the Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, who provided a summit overview.

"Surgery is going to be improving its ability to move forward without toxicity," Raghavan said.

He talked about several themes attendees can expect to hear about throughout the three-day summit, including molecular prediction, novel therapeutics, radiation technology, surgical technology and "defining the cancer agenda."

"Our interest is to set a spring-board for the future," Raghavan told attendees.

He also noted several issues important to improving cancer treatment, including recognition of key items; clever prioritization; a strengthened delivery model; and improved data acquisition.

The summit will also provide an opportunity to discuss certain key topics in cancer such as why there are so many discrepancies across the board from one racial group to another, Raghavan said. "We need to drill down and ... get a dialog going," on some of these issues, he noted.

Clearly another issue of interest is the fact that, "we don't enter patients into our clinical trials," Raghavan said, calling the low percentage of patients diagnosed with cancer who are enrolled in clinical trials a "national scandal."

Out in the exhibit halls representatives from many different drug and device companies were eager to talk about how their technology will impact cancer care going forward.

Among them, a company called superDimension (Minneapolis) that has developed the inReach System, which uses electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB) to provide minimally invasive access to lesions deep in the lungs as well as mediastinal lymph nodes. According to the company, by extending the reach of conventional bronchoscopes, the inReach System enables physicians to diagnose benign and malignant lung lesions, enhancing treatment decisions and avoiding the need for higher-risk procedures.

Dan Sullivan, president/CEO of superDimension, told Medical Device Daily that with the inReach System, the physician inserts a catheter through the patient's throat, which is guided by GPS-like technology to diagnose, minimally invasively, whether or not the spot on a patient's lung is cancerous. "You eliminate two surgeries with one catheter procedure," Sullivan said.

Sullivan told MDD about a woman in West Virginia who was told she was inoperable because of her co-morbidities and was basically sent home to die. Her daughter heard about the ENB procedure and, long story short, she was cured. He also talked about a woman in Texas who was told she needed a thoracotomy – or, a wedge procedure, in which the doctor would cut out a portion of her lung to diagnose whether or not she had lung cancer – who ended up having the ENB procedure instead and found out she never would have needed surgery. "I could tell you 9,000 more stories just like that," Sullivan said.

With healthcare costs being at the center of the reform debate, Sullivan was sure to note that his company's technology has the potential to reduce costs associated with lung cancer. He said the cost to Medicare for a wedge procedure is $17,000 if there are no complications – and $25,000 or more if there are complications. In contrast, the cost of an ENB procedure is estimated at $2,600. "It fits everyone's agenda," Sullivan said.

Amanda Pedersen, 229-471-4212;