Lung Cancer Awareness Month: The importance of the patient perspective in driving advancements in testing and treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
In the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, it is estimated that 523,522 patients were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020.[i] Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which constitutes most cases of the disease (85%),[ii] is most often diagnosed at a late stage (III/IV). [iii] This statistic is set against the backdrop of fragmented health care systems in Europe that are a serious barrier for a rapid roll-out of uniform screening programmes, which when compared to other cancers, such as breast or prostate,iii,[iv] clearly demonstrates the scale of unmet need for this patient community.
With a great deal of healthcare resources being diverted to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and a reliance on telemedicine for routine health checks[v], rates of detection, diagnosis and treatment across all cancers, including lung, have consistently fallen in the EMEA region over the past year.[vi] Amongst the various types of cancer, a report published by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) in 2020 found that lung cancer has been one of the worst affected areas due to a multitude of factors such as overlapping symptoms with COVID-19 and specific pressures on respiratory health-care services caused by the pandemic.[vii] This has created much opportunity for misdiagnosis during recent months, causing many patients with early-stage lung cancer to self-isolate believing that they have COVID-19, or else be misdiagnosed by their healthcare team due to the high prevalence of the virus.vii
This pandemic has created challenges for the lung cancer community and there has never been a more important time to mark Lung Cancer Awareness Month (LCAM) this November. LCAM aims to amplify the conversation and the importance of early detection, treatment, and research to improve outcomes for patients around the world, while addressing the lack of knowledge amongst patients about effective risk reduction and treatment options.[viii] LCAM represents a great opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, physicians, policy makers and patients to come together to work towards a common goal. It represents a time for an increased recognition of lung cancer as a strategic health priority, including broadening the policy dialogue around lung cancer and demonstrating its strategic relevance to meeting overall health policy goals - particularly within the context of post-COVID recovery. LCAM also creates an opportunity to highlight Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the EU approach to prevention, treatment and care. It is the diversity of perspectives that converge from healthcare professionals and patients that makes LCAM an important annual event. One that reminds us how together we must collaborate, share best practice and insights in order to truly drive progress in lung cancer.
At Janssen Oncology, we value the power of collaborative innovation. By working hand-in-hand with representatives of patient organisations from around the world, we are able to understand the challenges that NSCLC presents and identify the most critical hurdles faced by the community, such as diagnosis and testing, clinical trial access, information provision, and general wellbeing. This is so important in achieving one of Janssen’s paramount goals: reducing the burden of lung cancer and transforming long-term outcomes for patients.
By establishing an ongoing and open dialogue with patient organisations, we’re able to truly grasp the key challenges faced and identify where support is most vital today. Through meaningful dialogue with the lung cancer patient community we have learned that there are a myriad of challenges that they face and gaps to be bridged, such as the inaccessibility of information and lack of access to clinical trials, the greater need for systematic biomarker testing of certain lung cancer types, the overwhelming need for more information and support on topics from day-to-day symptom management to discussion guides to aid conversations with loved ones, and of course materials for their friends and family members to seek information. More broadly, patients and caregivers have expressed the need for support with their overall wellbeing in the form of information provision, in addition to podcasts and videos on mindfulness and self-help tips.
We strive to embed the patient voice in everything we do at Janssen Oncology and from the earliest possible opportunity, from clinical research, through the development process and beyond, we listen to and collaborate with patients throughout the entire lifecycle of their disease. By building relationships with the community and working to better understand their needs, we make progress every day to improve the quality of life for these patients and their loved ones.
[i] Globocan. Cancer Today. Estimated number of incident cases and deaths Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA), Africa, both sexes, all ages. Available at: https://gco.iarc.fr/today (last accessed October 2021)
[ii] Zappa C, et al. Non-small cell lung cancer: current treatment and future advances. Transl Lung Cancer Res 2016; 5(3):288-300.
[iii] Knight S, et al. Progress and prospects of early detection in lung cancer. Open Biol 2017; 7(9): 170070
[iv] Detterbeck FC, et al. Diagnosis and management of lung cancer, 3 ed: American College of Chest, Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. 143(5) E78S–E92S (2013).
[v] Monaghesh, E., Hajizadeh, A. The role of telehealth during COVID-19 outbreak: a systematic review based on current evidence. BMC Public Health 20, 1193 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09301-4
[vi] WHO. Statement – Catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on cancer care. Available at: https://www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/sections/statements/2021/statement-catastrophic-impact-of-covid-19-on-cancer-care (last accessed October 2021).
[vii] Gourd E. Lung cancer control in the UK hit badly by COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Oncol. 2020;21(12):1559. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30691-4