Lung cancer is among the most deadly forms of cancer, initiating from abnormal cell growth in the vital respiratory organ. According to the National Cancer Institute, lung and bronchus cancer account for the highest number of cancer-related fatalities, with an estimated 127,070 individuals projected to lose their lives to this disease. The impact of lung cancer underscores the urgent need for awareness, early detection, and preventive measures to combat its devastating effects on public health.
In 2022, lung cancer was estimated to account for 103,371 cases, placing it among the top five leading cancer sites for both males and females. Smokers are disproportionately affected, as over 80% of lung cancer cases are linked to frequent smoking. Additionally, exposure to second-hand smoke, radon, air pollution, and a family history of lung cancer are potential risk factors. It is crucial for individuals to be vigilant about potential warning signs, including a persistent cough, breathing difficulties, coughing blood, chest pain, and fatigue, as these may indicate the presence of lung cancer and warrant timely medical attention. Awareness of risk factors and early symptoms plays a vital role in the prevention and early detection of lung cancer, contributing to better outcomes and improved public health.
Since its inception in 2012, World Lung Cancer Day has been observed annually on August 1st. The day serves as a significant platform to raise awareness about the perilous disease, promote increased research efforts, and combat the stigma associated with lung cancer. By shedding light on the importance of understanding, preventing, and treating this devastating illness, the observance aims to inspire global action towards reducing its impact on individuals and communities worldwide. Through collective efforts and education, World Lung Cancer Day strives to foster a greater understanding of the disease, advocate for improved healthcare practices, and support those affected by lung cancer, ultimately working towards a future with better prevention, early detection, and treatment outcomes.
The campaign for World Lung Cancer Day gained spotlight in the year 2012 though the momentum was set in the preceding years. The campaign was organised by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies in collaboration with the International Association for the study of Lung Cancer and the American College of Chest Physicians. Since then, the awareness around lung cancer picked pace most of which centred around being aware of the cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks along with other symptoms of lung cancer.
According to Dr. Sunny Jain, HOD and Sr. Consultant Oncology at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad, symptoms of lung cancer are often not evident in the early stages. As a result, it is advisable to seek medical attention if you experience specific warning signs, such as a persistent cough lasting more than two weeks, a change in a chronic cough or “smoker’s cough,” coughing up blood (even in small amounts), difficulty in breathing, chest pain, wheezing, hoarseness, unexplained weight loss, bone or joint pain, fatigue, headaches, inflammation on the face or arms, or facial paralysis. Timely medical evaluation of these symptoms can lead to early detection and a better chance of successful treatment, underscoring the importance of proactive healthcare measures for potential lung cancer concerns.
Dr. Jain explains that in lung cancer treatment, a tailored approach has been achieved by identifying various mutations and their corresponding pathways. By targeting these specific pathways, medical professionals can effectively block them, thereby treating cancer more effectively. Some of the most common genetic mutations detected in lung cancer are found in the genes EGFR, KRAS, and ALK. The approval of the first therapies targeting mutated forms of the EGFR protein has been significant for individuals with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Specifically, Osimertinib has proven effective in combating specific mutated forms of EGFR proteins, including the T790M mutation associated with resistance to other EGFR-targeted drugs. Furthermore, Osimertinib has shown promising results in fighting tumors with the same EGFR activating mutations, known as exon 19 deletions and exon 21 L858R, which are also targeted by other EGFR-targeted drugs. This personalized treatment approach based on genetic mutations has opened new possibilities for improved outcomes and more targeted therapies in the battle against lung cancer.
Dr. Jain further highlights the findings from the FLAURA trial, where patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received osimertinib as their initial treatment experienced a significant survival benefit. These patients lived approximately 7 months longer than those treated with erlotinib (Tarceva) or gefitinib (Iressa). Importantly, the use of osimertinib did not result in an increase in serious side effects, as observed by the investigators. This outcome indicates the potential of osimertinib as a promising and well-tolerated treatment option for advanced NSCLC, offering renewed hope and improved quality of life for patients grappling with this challenging disease. The positive results from the FLAURA trial underscore the importance of ongoing research and the development of targeted therapies, paving the way for more effective and personalized lung cancer treatments in the future.