Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) President Laurie Fenton-Ambrose predicted that because of major breakthroughs this year in screening, treatment and research, 2011 will be defined as the turning point year for lung cancer.
“To paraphrase Churchill, this is not the end but it is certainly the beginning of the end,” she said, “and 2011 will be remembered as the year that finally changed the course of lung cancer and led to thousands of lives being saved.”
The Lung Cancer Alliance the only national non-profit dedicated to providing support and advocacy for those living with or at risk for lung cancer.
A major breakthrough
Topping the list is the scientific validation of CT screening for lung cancer, a major breakthrough that was also cited by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists and primary care doctors as one of the three most important medical breakthroughs of 2011.
Within months of the release of the CT screening data, the National Comprehensive Cancer Coalition, a consortium of the nation’s leading cancer centers, issued new guidelines with the highest level of consensus endorsement. Four weeks later, WellPoint, the largest commercial health insurer in the country announced coverage for CT screening for those at high risk for lung cancer. The Lung Cancer Alliance also launched a new website, which addresses the risks and benefits of screening to help answer the questions, “Am I at risk?, Should I be screened?, Where should I go?”
Lung cancer research received another boost when additional federal funding was secured for the Department of Defense’s lung cancer research program, bringing the total secured by Lung Cancer Alliance to date to $58 million.
New treatment options
On the treatment front, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved crizotinib (Xalkori?, Pfizer), a drug that targets lung cancer tumors in patients with a specific mutation in the ALK gene. “We are seeing progress on all fronts and now the linking of a continuum of care – research, early detection and treatment,” said Fenton-Ambrose, predicting that screening will stimulate more research and new approaches to identifying those at risk, preventing and treating lung cancer, more effective smoking cessation protocols and a better understanding of other causes of lung cancer.
Greater public understanding
The series of breakthroughs that occurred this year led to increased coverage by the media and greater public understanding of the impact of lung cancer – the leading cancer killer in the United States and worldwide – the increasing number of never smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer and the need to address lung cancer prevention, early detection and treatment simultaneously.
Fenton-Ambrose also noted an increase in the number of national and international lung cancer Shine a Light vigils and events held this year reflected the growing public involvement.
U.S. Government action
Finally, bipartisan legislation introduced in both the House or Representatives and the Senate earlier this year has now been co-sponsored by 27 senators and 47 representatives and is supported by 60 medical organizations, institutions, women and minority health groups and military and veterans’ organizations. This diverse group of public health and policy leaders is expected to grow in the year ahead.
“This has been an extraordinary year,” concluded Fenton Ambrose, “and one for the history books. As we look ahead to 2012, we will continue to build the movement, bring hope to those with lung cancer and those at risk for the disease.”
– ASCO 2010: Studies Report Exciting Progress Against Lung Cancer
– Investigational Lung Cancer Drug Candidate AP26113 Shows Dual Inhibition of ALK and EGFR
– Crizotinib Offers New Hope for Patients with Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer; Pfizer Submits NDA
– Crizotinib (PF-02341066) in ALK-Positive Patients with NSCLC.