5 Important Things to Know About Lung Cancer

In 2017, an estimated 222,500 people in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer – and while that makes it the second most common type of cancer, it will cause more deaths than any other type. And more deaths than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

At AstraZeneca, our scientists are working furiously to find important new treatments for lung cancer, with the hope of curbing these devastating statistics. Here is what you need to know about how researchers are approaching lung cancer.


There is more than one type of lung cancer.

It’s easy to think that lung cancer is one disease, but in truth, there are many different types. This starts with two main categories: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC is the most common type, accounting for about 80% to 85% of all lung cancers, while SCLC accounts for about 15% to 20%. Then, there are more subtypes: NSCLC can be adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or large cell carcinoma – each subtype starts from different types of lung cells.

Within each subtype, there are four main stages of lung cancer.

Lung cancer stage is determined by tumor size and whether it has grown to nearby areas, lymph nodes, or other organs. Some of these stages have second names, which can make lung cancer research news confusing. For example, “locally advanced” lung cancer is typically Stage III. And cancer that is “metastatic” – meaning it has spread or metastasized – is Stage IV.

And then there are biomarkers.

Lung cancer biomarkers are unique traits of lung cancer that can help determine what types of medicines the cancer is most likely to respond to. These can be mutations, or specific types of proteins and molecules that are present in a person’s tumor or blood. Biomarkers can be identified through testing – sometimes called “genetic testing” or “diagnostic testing” – to help determine the treatment approach for each patient. And since lung cancer can change and mutate over time, it’s often important to test more than once to ensure doctors are keeping up with the cancer.

Personalized medicine means treating each patient based on the details of their disease.

These diverse types, stages and subsets of lung cancer make every patient’s tumor and experience unique. “Personalized medicine” is a way of creating and selecting treatments that are designed to treat specific types of lung cancer. When it comes to lung cancer, one size does not fit all.

AstraZeneca is researching personalized medicines in a broad range of lung cancers.

At AstraZeneca, we’re leveraging our expertise in lung cancer and building on our existing medicines to investigate important new treatments across different types of lung cancer. We currently have over 32 ongoing clinical trials looking at many different stages, lines of treatment, and types of disease.

Our vision is to one day eliminate cancer as a cause of death. With hard work and a deep-rooted determination to follow the science of the disease, we are committed to making that vision a reality.

Follow AstraZeneca’s news to find out how we are progressing toward our goal of changing the lung cancer treatment paradigm.