Lung cancer kills more men and women than any other form of cancer. This year it is estimated that more than 155,000 Americans will die of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 26 percent of all cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women.
Known risk factors for lung cancer including cigarette smoking are responsible for the majority of cases. But our ability to treat this disease is woefully inadequate, resulting in only 17 percent of patients living five years or longer after being diagnosed. More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.
One reason why lung cancer is so deadly is that it is hard to find in its early stages. There usually are no symptoms early on. By the time you start to notice symptoms, the cancer often has spread to other parts of the body.
For some, surgery can be effective, but often lung cancer isn’t found early enough to be removed. Currently, standard treatment options include chemotherapy, which kills healthy cells along with cancer cells; and radiation, which targets cancer cells, but may also damage the lungs.
The American Lung Association Research Program supports a rich array of studies in lung cancer. Much of the research we fund is in the area of precision medicine or “personalized treatment.” These targeted therapies use novel biomarkers to find the unique genetic makeup of a person’s tumor, which leads to treatment designed to be most effective for that patient. Our researchers are using the latest tools, including nanotechnology, to understand how lung cancer arises and spreads, and why drugs designed to tackle the disease develop resistance. The findings will lead to new treatments that improve survival in people with lung cancer and one day may lead to a cure.