Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. with more than 200,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease annually. Due largely to aggressive anti-smoking initiatives, annual new U.S. cases have dropped 14 percent since the mid-1990s.

While once classified by appearance under a microscope, lung cancer tumors can now be treated with targeted drugs based on their genetic characteristics. Research has also shown CT scanning can reduce cancer deaths among heavy smokers by catching more cases early. Growing evidence also suggests that immunotherapy may offer hope for future advances in treating advanced lung cancer.

Long-term lung cancer survival, while low, has edged upward in recent decades and greater improvements are possible with continued research investment and increased use of screening advances.

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1999

Giving radiation to the chest twice-daily increases survival for small cell lung cancer

Giving radiation to the chest twice-daily increases survival for small cell lung cancer

Badge indicating that research was paid for using federal funds

A study finds that twice-daily radiation to the chest, together with chemotherapy, prolongs survival compared with once-daily radiation and chemotherapy in patients with small cell lung cancer that has not spread. Investigators showed that 26 percent of patients in the twice-daily group survived at least five years, compared with 16 percent in the once-daily group.

Simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation proven most effective for stage III non-small cell lung cancer

Simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation proven most effective for stage III non-small cell lung cancer

Badge indicating that research was paid for using federal funds

Researchers find that giving chemotherapy and radiation during the same treatment period, an approach known as concurrent chemoradiation, results in better survival for patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer (disease with limited spread in the lungs and surrounding tissue) than the standard practice of waiting to give radiation therapy until after chemotherapy was completed. This finding echoes similar findings reported for small cell lung cancer in earlier years.

Cranial radiation reduces risk of small cell lung cancer spreading to the brain

Cranial radiation reduces risk of small cell lung cancer spreading to the brain

Badge indicating that research was paid for using federal funds

Radiation to the head is proven to significantly cut the risk that small cell lung cancer will spread to the brain, and thus improves survival. This result is initially shown in patients with earlier stage small cell lung cancer, and is later also proven effective in patients with advanced disease, who have an even higher risk of developing brain metastases.

1996

Topotecan approved as second round of treatment for small cell lung cancer

1995

Analysis affirms benefits of chemotherapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Analysis affirms benefits of chemotherapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer

An analysis of data from more than 50 clinical trials sheds important new light on the benefits of chemotherapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer, concluding that cisplatin chemotherapy, in addition to surgery, radiation therapy or supportive care, substantially extends survival. Prior to this analysis, there was significant concern that the risks and side effects of chemotherapy outweighed the limited benefits for patients with advanced disease. The authors of the analysis also suggest that giving chemotherapy following the surgical removal of lung tumors – adjuvant chemotherapy, considered a novel approach for lung cancer at the time – extends survival by as much as 5 percent. This finding prompts the launch of several large clinical trials to test this ultimately successful new treatment strategy.

1994

New generation of chemotherapy drugs for non-small cell lung cancer

New generation of chemotherapy drugs for non-small cell lung cancer

Badge indicating that research was paid for using federal funds

Within just a few years, several new chemotherapy drugs for non-small cell lung cancer are shown to be effective, particularly when combined with cisplatin. These new drugs include paclitaxel (Taxol), docetaxel (Taxotere), vinorelbine (Navelbine) and gemcitabine (Gemzar). Randomized studies show that regimens containing these drugs provide comparable levels of efficacy for patients with advanced disease.

1993

Simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy boosts survival for small cell lung cancer

Simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy boosts survival for small cell lung cancer

Researchers demonstrate that starting radiation therapy together with chemotherapy dramatically improves the effectiveness of treatment for patients with early-stage small cell lung cancer, compared to starting radiation later in the course of treatment. This new approach is found to significantly delay cancer progression and improve survival.

1991

Combining chemotherapy and radiation prolongs survival for non-small cell lung cancer

Combining chemotherapy and radiation prolongs survival for non-small cell lung cancer

Badge indicating that research was paid for using federal funds

Two studies show that treatment programs involving both radiation and chemotherapy are more effective than either approach alone for patients with "stage III" non-small cell lung cancer (including patients with larger tumors that may or may not have limited spread within the lungs and in nearby lymph nodes). This two-pronged treatment approach soon becomes the standard of care for this disease.

1987

Scientists discover key genetic vulnerability in tumor cells – EGFR

1986

Second-hand smoke formally declared a carcinogen

1975

Chemotherapy combinations prove effective in small cell lung cancer

Chemotherapy combinations prove effective in small cell lung cancer

Badge indicating that research was paid for using federal funds

Researchers show that a treatment regimen involving the drug doxorubicin (Adriamycin), together with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), vincristine (Oncovin), and radiation therapy, causes significant tumor shrinkage in some patients with early-stage small cell lung cancer. These findings lead to many additional studies testing various chemotherapy combinations for this disease.

1974

Warning labels first appear on cigarette packs

Warning labels first appear on cigarette packs

Researchers tie sharp increases in bladder cancer deaths among British men to the rapid rise in cigarette smoking during prior decades.  Because smoking gained popularity more slowly among women, comparable increases in bladder cancer deaths take longer to emerge.

Years later, in 2011, researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute report that cigarette smokers have four times the risk of bladder cancer as non-smokers.  Overall, the study attributes about half of U.S. bladder cancer cases to smoking.

1955

Smoking first linked to cancer

Smoking first linked to cancer

In the 1950s, studies begin to show that smoking is a major cause of cancer, particularly lung cancer. By the early 1960s, both the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.K. Royal College of Physicians issue reports linking smoking to cancer and other serious health problems. In later years, second-hand smoke is declared a threat to the health of non-smokers. Tobacco control and smoking cessation soon become the most important strategy for reducing the worldwide toll of lung cancer.