GLCC calls for rapid increase in funding to address ‘worldwide scandal’ of lack of lung cancer research
New study reveals shortfall compared with other major cancers
Lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer (1) yet a ground-breaking study published today shows that it was the subject of just 5.6% of ALL global cancer research in 2013. There were estimated to be 1.8 million new cases of lung cancer globally in 2012 (2).
‘The State of Global Lung Cancer Research’ (1), shows that research into lung cancer has increased by just 1.2% since 2004 and the relative commitment to lung cancer research has actually fallen in most countries over the past ten years.
Global under-representation in lung cancer research is confirmed in the study, carried out by a team led by Dr Ajay Aggarwal of the Institute of Cancer Policy (ICP), King’s College London, and published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.
Dr Aggarwal said, “This study highlights the significant unmet need in lung cancer research globally and there is an urgent requirement for countries to work together to address this challenge.”
Over the past 20 years, those directly caring for people facing the consequences of a lung cancer diagnosis have observed that the disease appeared to be the subject of less research effort than other common cancers, but lacked factual confirmation.
The Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC), an international group of advocacy organisations dedicated to supporting the needs of lung cancer patients, commissioned the ICP, who have proven expertise in the study of research systems, to examine the evidence.
The study reveals that 24 countries (3) are responsible for more than 95% of global lung cancer research output.
The majority of lung cancer research - 53% - is focused on medicines, genetics and biomarkers, with just 1% of research going into understanding and improving palliative and support care and quality of life issues (1). This is despite the fact that the majority of patients will require supportive care given the poor survival rates in lung cancer.
Late presentation and diagnosis of the disease are persistent issues affecting curative treatment, but just 1.8% of total lung cancer research output is focused on screening and 4.4% on diagnostics (1).
Dr Matthew Peters, chair of the GLCC, said: "This study clearly shows that, in terms of research commitment, lung cancer is very much the undervalued poor cousin. It is a simple matter of equity – an intolerable worldwide scandal that a ‘non-sexy’ cancer is so badly neglected and that major research funding agencies have been slow in addressing this.
“Patients and their supporters reject absolutely the notion that progress cannot be made in lung cancer treatment and that the research-based improvements in survival – as have been seen in breast and bowel cancer – cannot be matched for lung cancer.
“The investment in genetic understanding that has been made HAS resulted in some new and effective treatments for a small but significant proportion of patients. This is exciting and creates the promise and expectation of further advances.
“The aim should be clear. The current rate of long-term survival, around 15% at best, should be raised to levels well over 50% as is presently the case for breast and bowel cancer.
“We therefore call for increased research efforts to achieve this. Every country must invest more in lung cancer research, whilst also increasing research into those areas that are currently under-investigated, and to collaborate with global partners to share research findings. This will improve patient outcomes”.
Professor Richard Sullivan, of King’s College London Institute of Cancer Policy, who worked with Dr Aggarwal on developing the study, said: “The findings should be used to guide public policy, as they highlight where significant improvements need to be made by cancer research funders.”
A recent analysis of costs associated with cancer care in the European Union (4) demonstrated that, relative to other cancers, lung cancer is associated with the highest economic costs, 15% of total cancer care costs. It is followed by breast cancer, 12%, and colorectal cancer, 10%.
- Aggarwal A, Lewison G, Idir S, et al. The State of Lung Cancer Research: A Global Analysis; published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.
- GLOBOCAN 2012, Lung Cancer, available here: http://globocan.iarc.fr/Pages/fact_sheets_cancer.aspx