As the War on Cancer enters its fifth decade and the number of people being diagnosed with cancer continues to rise, Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) called for more aggressive integration of advanced imaging technology and biomedical research to improve prevention, earlier detection and treatment of cancer.
“We have developed remarkable new tools for imaging and biomarker identification that can bring about enormous changes at this moment in time and drive rapid improvements in the entire continuum of care in cancer,” said Laurie Fenton-Ambrose, President and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance. “But imaging and biomedical research must be linked together,” she said.
National Cancer Act
In 1975, when Congress passed the National Cancer Act, dubbed the War on Cancer legislation, 400 new cases of cancer were being diagnosed each year for every 100,000 people in the population. According to the latest figures, in 2008 that number rose to 463 new cases for every 100,000 people. Over 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
Decline in cancer rates uneven
While the rate and number of people being diagnosed with cancer overall continues to climb, some progress has been made in reducing the percentage of people who die from cancer, primarily because of screening and better treatments. However the decline is uneven.
The drop in lung cancer death rates among men reflects the drop in the number of men smoking and being diagnosed with lung cancer, but not a reduction in the lethality of lung cancer, which continues to kill three times as many men as prostate cancer. For women, incidence or mortality rates are still twice as high as they were in 1975 and nearly twice as many women will die of lung cancer than breast cancer.
Smoking vs. non-smoking
In addition the percentage of women with lung cancer who have never smoked is twice as high as men. “The overall numbers are staggering,” said Fenton-Ambrose. Of the 577,000 people who will die of some form of cancer this year, one in four women and three in ten men will die of lung cancer – more than the combined total of deaths from breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers.
Advances help reduce lung cancer mortality
“However, this past year has also brought us the most significant advance we have ever seen for lung cancer – the validation of CT screening as a life-saving tool that can dramatically reduce lung cancer mortality among those at high risk,” she said. According to several national and international studies, that reduction would be at least 20% and possibly as high as 50-60%, which translates to 35,000 to 95,000 lives saved a year.
Genes and biomarkers
Screening can also stimulate research into precancerous conditions, genetic mutations and biomarkers that will improve risk assessment, diagnosis and treatment for all types of lung cancer, including lung cancers not associated with smoking.