Lung Cancer: A Unique Challenge and Opportunity to Help Patients

By Elisabeth Croft, MD, Senior Medical Director, US Medical Affairs, Oncology at AstraZeneca

Through a simple internet search, a person diagnosed with lung cancer will quickly learn that their disease remains the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, taking more lives than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined each year. With lung cancer, however, there is often a false sense of personal accountability, as a common social assumption is that tobacco use alone can cause lung cancer. The reality is that approximately 25% of lung cancers are not attributable to tobacco and the proportion of never-smokers, who are diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing annually. Further, as it relates to smoking cessation, there are more than 80% of male and female former smokers who have stopped smoking at least 5 years prior to their lung cancer diagnosis. However, the stigma remains for many patients, and in order to progress beyond the association of lung cancer and tobacco use, it is the responsibility of the lung cancer community to educate the broader public about the potential causes of lung cancer and support research that will drive the opportunity for advancement of patient care, quality of life, and survival.

In addition to furthering our understanding of the origin and basis for why patients get lung cancer, there is also a need to comprehend the disease itself, and how specific types of lung cancer may be impacted if treated with targeted therapies. We can see evidence of this in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) where 85% of all lung cancers are classified, and the overall 5 year survival rate is less than 14% for patients with advanced NSCLC. Within advanced NSCLC, we see that based on testing for specific mutations, approximately 10 to 15% of US patients are identified as being EGFR mutation-positive, possibly providing an opportunity to treat these patients with a targeted therapy, such as an epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine-kinase inhibitor (EGFR TKI).

AstraZeneca is demonstrating leadership in this area of high unmet need – as evidenced, more than a decade ago, in revolutionizing the science and treatment of advanced NSCLC by developing the first targeted therapy. Our dedication to improving the treatment of NSCLC is further evidenced by our many clinical studies in this disease area.

As a leader in oncology, we at AstraZeneca believe that we have a responsibility to not only continue advancing the science, but to also find innovative solutions that improve overall patient health. To deliver on this commitment of providing innovative support for the lung cancer community, we have developed LVNG With, a program for people living with lung cancer, as well as their loved ones, to provide inspiration, support and resources. In addition to AstraZeneca, LVNG With was co-created with three leading lung cancer advocacy groups: Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Free to Breathe and Lung Cancer Alliance, as well as more than 100 lung cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. This dedication to the lung cancer community emphasizes AstraZeneca’s commitment to not only pioneering the next generation of lung cancer therapies, but also providing patients with helpful resources about the diseases.