Lung cancer is the
leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide. Last year alone, 226,160 patients were diagnosed
with lung cancer and 160,340 people died from this disease in the United States.
It’s a disease that has touched me personally,
and shaped my life professionally.
The statistics on lung
cancer are startling. For example, did you know that more people die from lung
cancer each year than die from prostate, breast, colon and pancreatic cancer
combined? Remarkably, twice as many
women die from lung cancer each year than die from breast cancer. But despite
this, our country spends only a tenth of what is spent on each breast cancer
death for each lung cancer death. This
paucity of research funding has led to a five-year survival for lung cancer
patients of only 15 percent. During this
month of November, and going forward, it is critical that we raise awareness
and funding for this disease.
|Timothy Burns, M.D., Ph.D.|
Many of us, including
myself, have known a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with lung
cancer and in some cases, we have lost our love ones. When I was 7, I lost my
father to lung cancer. My mom later died from the disease when I was 16. Sadly, my parents died during a time when
there was very little therapy for this disease and this has inspired me to try
to do better. Today, thankfully, much
has changed and this is truly an exciting time for lung cancer research.
Over the last 5 years
alone, in collaboration with cancer centers across the country, we have made significant
advancements in the treatment of our patients. When a patient is diagnosed with lung cancer at UPMC CancerCenter, we are now able to
analyze which genes are responsible for their tumor and try to personalize the
therapies based on their individual tumor genetics. This strategy has allowed us to identify
patients that can benefit from FDA approved targeted agents in over 25 percent
of patients and we are extending the lives of these patients. For many of our other patients, we are now
able to offer them clinical trials in which we personalize their treatment
based on the genetics of their tumor. We
are clearly at a point where we no longer are giving every patient the same
chemotherapy but now have targeted and effective therapies which are
personalized for each individual patient..
However, we clearly need
to do better! Many of these patients who
initially respond on these newer drugs will eventually progress and we still lack effective therapies for the other 75 percent of our
patients. We are all working very hard
both in the lab and the clinic to identify new treatments for more of our
patients, especially for those patients in
whom we can identify the genes that are responsible for their disease but do
not yet have effective therapies for them. In fact, my own lab, our entire lung
cancer team and lung cancer researchers nationally are literally working day
and night in their laboratories and with clinical trials to develop better
treatments for lung cancer. Our progress depends on raising awareness about lung cancer
and increasing funding for the research to continue and expand.
For those who have lung
cancer or have friend or a family member with lung cancer and want to get
involved, there are several local organizations in our area whose goal is to
raise awareness, fund research and assist lung cancer patients and their families. Among those groups are:
organizations such as the American Lung Association, the LUNGevity Foundation
and many others work to fund lung cancer research as well. It is critical, that we all work together to
raise awareness about the impact of lung cancer in our community. We must work
together to increase funding not only for clinical trials and laboratory
research but also for prevention and early detection efforts which can make a dramatic
difference. Finally, we must let lung
cancer patients and their families know that they are not alone.
- The National Lung Cancer Partnership organizes a
Free to Breathe Pittsburgh event each year and has events throughout the
- The Lung Cancer Alliance working locally with
Elizabeth Moser to organize lung cancer vigils to remember our love ones.
- TheScott A. Garet Memorial Foundation organizes
the Flying Monkey 5K each year to honor Scott Garet, who died from lung cancer
at age 27 and to raise money and awareness about this disease.
Labels: lung cancer, UPMC CancerCenter