Lung cancer: new weapons against an old foe
Approximately 1.8 million people develop lung cancer every year.1 Can new diagnostic tools deliver earlier diagnosis and smarter treatment choices?
Despite the best efforts of the medical community and researchers across the world, lung cancer has remained the most common and most deadly of all types of cancer globally, with three people dying of lung cancer every minute.2 This toll represents more deaths than prostate, colorectal and breast cancer combined and underlines that a greater focus on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease is urgently needed to help counter this burden.3
Turning the tide
The situation regarding lung cancer can appear grave. Outcomes have improved radically for many forms of the disease but lung cancer has long been synonymous with poor outcomes – only one in 10 people diagnosed with the disease are alive five years later.4
While early detection improves outcomes, symptoms usually do not appear until the disease is at an advanced stage.5 Tumours can mutate and spread, often causing irreparable damage before its victims are even aware that they are affected.
Is there a smart way to fight back against lung cancer? Thanks to promising advances in diagnostics and treatment, there is! Not only can doctors test for the presence of cancer, but they can figure out what ‘stage’ the disease is at. And, as science deepens our understanding of the disease, experts have found that knowing what type of cancer is present, can inform treatment decisions.6
“When it comes to diagnosis, an x-ray is often the first investigation performed. This can be followed up with a tissue biopsy and CT scan to see how far it has spread,” explains Dr Jesme Fox, Medical Director of The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, a lung cancer charity. “Using information from the staging, the biopsy and how well the patient is, doctors can decide on the best treatment.”
We have come a long way but more progress is needed in order to improve outcomes. The European Lung Foundation says innovative diagnostic tools are needed to facilitate targeted therapy. “Advances in tailoring chemotherapy to the type of lung cancer must be matched by the availability of diagnostic services for lung cancer phenotyping and genotyping,” the Foundation states in the European Lung White Book.7
By taking this ‘stratified medicine’ approach, doctors can choose surgery, radiotherapy or drug therapy based on the specific type of cancer identified in their patient. The challenge is diagnosing these mutations and diagnosing…