Originally published at medpagetoday.com by Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, MedPage Today on April 05, 2013.
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner
All patients with advanced lung adenocarcinoma should undergo testing forEGFR and ALK mutations to determine their eligibility for targeted therapies, according to a jointly developed guideline from three organizations.
Patients should undergo EGFR testing at diagnosis of advanced disease or at recurrence or progression if they were not tested at earlier disease stages. ALKrearrangement testing is suggested by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, the College of American Pathologists, and the Association for Molecular Pathology.
Patients should not be excluded from testing because of smoking status or clinical characteristics, the guideline authors said in an article published online in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.
"It was recognized by each of these three organizations that there was a gap in knowledge, a gap in communication, and variance around the world in how this testing ought to be done," first author Neil I. Lindeman, MD, a pathologist at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, said in video statement.
"We decided collectively ... that these three voices should come together in order to make a consensus guideline."
The consensus opinion of the guideline panel is that EGFR and ALK testing should be encouraged for patients with stage I, II, or III disease at diagnosis.
EGFR testing should have priority over all other genes, followed by ALK.
"Any oncologist should be able to provide this testing and should do this testing to give their patients optimal care," Gregory Riely, MD, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York city, said in the video.
"With a proper biomarker, I can tell patients that they have a 70% to 80% chance of responding to a treatment rather than saying that they have a 1 in 10 chance of responding to treatment," he added.
Other points made in the guideline include:
The guideline addresses a variety of other issues related to testing techniques and processes, quality control, testing for secondary mutations and for other genes, and reporting results.
The broad recommendations for testing and the guideline's emphasis on urgency in obtaining test results reflect practices already in place at leading cancer centers, according to Edward Kim, MD, of Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C.
"Testing should be based on type of patient (i.e. histology) and not clinical characteristics (i.e. smoking status or ethnicity)," said Kim, who was not involved in writing the guideline. "Both tests (EGFR and ALK) are recommended to be ordered at diagnosis, which is our current practice at Levine Cancer Institute.
"Although 'within 2 weeks' for results is recommended, I hope that the turnaround time can be shortened in the near future. Patients with lung cancer are anxious to begin therapy, and longer delays will preclude the use of these molecular agents in the front-line setting."
The guideline authors disclosed relationships with Novartis, Millennium, Arqule/Daiichi Sankyo, NanoString, Genzyme, Infinity, Sequenom, Remedica Medical Education, Abbott, Existence Genetics, CymoGen Dx, Applied Spectral Imaging, Parteq-Queen's Commercialization Office, Merck, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, OSI/Genentech/Roche, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and sanofi-aventis. Several authors disclosed royalties related to publications and fees received as expert witnesses.
Primary source: Journal of Thoracic Oncology
Source reference: Lindeman NI et al. "Molecular testing guideline for selection of lung cancer patients for EGFR and ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors: Guideline from the College of American Pathologists, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and Association for Molecular Pathology" J Thorac Oncol 2013; DOI: 10.1097/JTO.0bO13ee318290868f.
@bonniejaddario Responds to @consumerreports March Issue Cover Story #lungcancer #earlydetection #facts
Leading magazine downplays value of lung cancer screenings, to the detriment of advances in early detection research.
SAN CARLOS, Calif., March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire
The following statement was issued by Bonnie J. Addario regarding the March cover article in Consumer Reports: The cancer tests you need--and those you don't:
"I am appalled by the March 2013 Consumer Reports cover story (The cancer tests you need--and those you don't), because of the misleading and misguided message it sends to people who really need life-saving cancer screening tests, and how it discredits the value and importance of proper early detention cancer screening tests.
"The article's irresponsible reporting is best summed up in this statement on page 31: 'But most people shouldn't waste their time on screenings for bladder, lung, oral, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, skin or testicular cancers.'
"Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted publications in America. Anyone, whether they know they are low or high risk, will read that statement and walk away believing early detection cancer screening tests are unnecessary. The six-page article mentions only twice that its ratings apply only to asymptomatic, low-risk population.
"Shame on Consumer Reports. We are talking about people's lives here.
"I myself am a lung cancer survivor. For more than a year I was misdiagnosed and not given an early detection screening test, even though I was in a high-risk category. When I was finally diagnosed I was stage 3B. Unlike so many others, I beat the odds. But my odds would have been better with an early detection cancer screening test. I founded the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation seven years ago to advocate and raise money for better research, education, early detection and treatment. Because something must be done.
The stats are staggering.
"Cancer screening and treatment are certainly at a crossroads, as the article states. This is made clear as well by recent legislation to direct more tobacco settlement money to early lung cancer detection programs. But the article's irresponsible representation of the value of screening tests, I fear, might damage the progress my lung cancer foundation has made over the past seven years - just as we are making great strides.
"People cannot readily see symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms are deep in the lungs, unlike breast cancer, where lumps can be felt and are visible. When you are diagnosed with lung cancer it is often at stage four, when it's too late.
"The Consumer Reports article makes only one responsible and thoughtful statement: 'Weighing the risks and benefits of cancer screening is best done in the context of a patient-doctor relationship.'
"Consumer Reports should stay out of the health care advice business, and stick to writing about toasters and washing machines. I wouldn't approach my doctor about whether I should buy a Honda or a Ford. And likewise, people should not consult Consumer Reports to help them decide whether or not to have a potentially life-saving cancer screening test."
About the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation
The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is one of the largest philanthropies (patient-founded, patient-focused, and patient-driven) devoted exclusively to eradicating Lung Cancer through research, early detection, education, and treatment. The Foundation works with a diverse group of physicians, organizations, industry partners, individuals, survivors, and their families to identify solutions and make timely and meaningful change. BJALCF was established on March 6, 2006 as a 501c(3) non-profit organization and has raised more than $9 million for lung cancer research.
Help us fight lung cancer! Go "Jogging for Joan" on April 20th in Blue Ridge, Georgia at LUNGevity's "Breathe Deep Blue Ridge" 5K!
Attention North Georgians! (...and East Tennesseans and Western North Carolinians....) Help us fight lung cancer! Join our team for "Breathe Deep Blue Ridge" at beautiful Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, GA!
Click here to learn more.
Congratulations to The Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Funds's Medical Advisor, Dancing for Joan's Honorary Chairman, Joan Gaeta's Pulmonologist, friend, and all-around great guy - Dr. Paul Scheinberg!
From The Atlanta Business Chronicle (Jan 25-31, 2013 Edition):
The Puzzle of Lung Cancer in Nonsmokers.
by Rich Barlow
Originally published by BU Today on 1/22/13 at bu.edu.
Avrum Spira’s aunt died of lung cancer almost 20 years ago. She was a nonsmoking exercise buff in her 40s who hadn’t been exposed to any known toxins; she worked in a government office, not a coal mine. “One of the healthiest people you could imagine, did everything right,” says Spira (ENG’02), who at the time was an internal medicine resident at the University of Toronto.
The one thing she didn’t do right wasn’t her fault: she’d been born to a nonsmoking mother who had died from the same illness. “I’m absolutely convinced she had a genetic predisposition” to lung cancer, says Spira, a School of Medicine professor and chief of computational biomedicine. That conviction set him on a quest for the genetic key to a medical mystery: why some people who have never smoked fall victim to this scourge of cigarette users.
Lung cancer kills more Americans than any other cancer, and twice as many women die from it than from breast cancer, although the latter gets greater public attention, says Spira. In 2008, the last year for which data was available, more than 208,000 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer and almost 158,600 died from it. Spira says between 10 and 15 percent of these annual victims are nonsmokers (the percentage has been edging up slowly in recent years) with no apparent exposure to other toxins—a crucial caveat. “How do you know someone has been or has not been exposed to something in the environment?” he asks. Some potential toxins, like radon, are invisible, he notes, “so people who we’re seeing now, with higher rates of nonsmoking lung cancer—is it because they were exposed to radon 20 years ago?”
It’s true that worldwide, the rise in the incidence of lung cancer—from the eighth leading cause of death in 1990 to fifth in 2010—is mostly a function, perversely, of good news: as living standards have improved in the developing world, more people survive into adulthood, meaning a decline in childhood deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases. That has brought an accompanying uptick in the number of people dying from diseases mostly found in wealthier countries, among them cancer. Moreover, air pollution in industrializing countries has resulted in more lung cancer in nonsmokers there, Spira says.
But in the United States, he says, doctors believe there’s a similar spurt in lung cancers in nonsmokers who’ve had no apparent contact with other toxins. The most extensive studies, incorporating detailed questionnaires and visits to peoples’ homes to see their environment, show that “there hasn’t been a clear association among nonsmokers who are getting lung cancer with exposures to other things.”
Rebecca Kusko (MED’14) (left) spearheads research into lung cancer among nonsmokers in Avrum Spira’s lab. Photo by Vernon Doucette
An ongoing, as-yet-unpublished study by a team that includes Spira is looking at tumor tissue and adjacent, noncancerous tissue from the lungs of 32 subjects with lung cancer: 8 smokers, 11 former smokers, and 13 who never smoked and had no apparent exposure to other toxins. The researchers ran the samples through a gene sequencer at MED, which “can give us unprecedented insight into the genomic changes leading to lung cancer” in nonsmokers, says Rebecca Kusko (MED’14), a graduate student spearheading the study in Spira’s lab.
With the sequencer, “we study the normal cells from each person as a control,” says Spira, “and then what happens in their tumor right next door, and say, what’s changed?” Preliminary results suggest that in the smokers, “a huge number of cancer pathways are activated,” as genes controlling cell growth in the tumors turned on. But those pathways weren’t necessarily activated in the nonsmokers, who showed different gene changes between their healthy lung tissue and their tumorous tissue. The researchers’ hypothesis is that the nonsmokers had a genetic predisposition, a pathway, to cancer that was activated by something in their environment.
That trigger, Spira theorizes, may be a viral infection (cervical, liver, and head and neck cancers are all caused by viruses, he says). The researchers are now sequencing the tumor tissue of the nonsmokers to try and find any viral genes. “Even if there’s one viral gene per million human genes, we might pick it up, we believe,” he says. The work will take a year or two.
Potential therapies—which are many more years away, he warns—might include screening people with the genetic predisposition and then giving those with the predisposition regular lung scans to catch cancers early. Another possibility would be drugs that could turn off uncontrolled growth in cancerous cells. (Spira got attention in 2010 for research suggesting that the natural compound myo-inositol could turn off incipient lung cancer in smokers.)
Those who walk Commonwealth Avenue and have to dodge fumes from smokers on break may wonder about secondhand smoke. Research is mixed, but Spira, who researches the amount of smoke necessary to change gene expression and possibly lead to lung cancer, believes that it takes a big dose—perhaps exposure over months or years.
Almost half a century after the surgeon general first warned of smoking’s dangers, Spira says that even Hollywood is catching on that not all cancer victims heedlessly bring the disease on themselves. In 2011, he was a presenter at the Prism Awards, given for accurate portrayals of illness in entertainment media. He handed an award to an actress whose character on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful had lung cancer.
The character was a nonsmoker.
Congress Gives Its Final Approval To Lung Cancer Research Bill; Only President Obama's Signature Needed To Become Law
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Senate gave its final approval to legislation containing the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act that gives priority status to lung and pancreatic cancers for the development of a master plan of action that the National Cancer Institute must send to Congress and make publicly available within 18 months.
The President is expected to sign the bill, the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which contains the cancer legislation.
"This is a holiday gift for all the lung cancer advocates around the country who came to Washington in person, or called and emailed their representatives to make lung cancer a priority for federal research," said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, Lung Cancer Alliance President & CEO.
The Senate action today concludes the long congressional journey of the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act that started in 2006 with a resolution introduced by then Senators Hillary Clinton, Chuck Hagel and Mike DeWine.
The bill now has to be enrolled and officially signed by the President before becoming law.
Kelcey Harrison, center, and Jill Costello, right, were lifelong friends, seen here with Gianna Toboni on a grade school field trip. [Photos courtesy of Kelcey Harrison]
A couple of Saturdays ago, while you were watching college football or out buying a Christmas tree, 24-year-old Kelcey Harrison was running the last 20 miles of a 3,500-mile "jog" from Times Square to her hometown of San Francisco.
Harrison, who graduated from Harvard, where she played soccer, is young, healthy and motivated. By the time she completed The Great Lung Run, she had logged 30 miles nearly every day for four months straight.
Harrison ran because she can. And because her lifelong friend Jill Costello -- who was also once young and healthy and motivated -- cannot.
On June 6, 2009, Costello, then a junior at Cal and a member of the crew team, was diagnosed with lung cancer. The disease was already at stage 4 and had spread; she was given about a year to live. Costello spent that year finishing school, earning Pac-10 Athlete of the Year honors, acting as vice president of the Panhellenic Council and doing tireless work for lung cancer charities -- all while undergoing chemotherapy.
In May 2010, doctors told Costello she could not be cured; all they could do was try to make her last few weeks more comfortable. In those last weeks she walked across the stage at graduation (with a 4.0 GPA) and helped Cal to a second-place finish at the NCAA crew championships.
"Jill was really strong," Harrison said. "She was really confident that she was gonna be the one to beat stage 4 lung cancer. She was very convincing in her argument; even at the very end we really believed she was going to be the miracle."
Costello died June 24, 2010.
Great Lung Run
No. 1 Cancer Killer
A young, vibrant nonsmoker, Costello was the last person anyone would expect to get lung cancer. But 20 percent of the more than 20,000 women diagnosed with the disease each year have never smoked. Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, taking more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined.
Despite the staggering stats, there are no pink ribbons worn or mustaches grown in the name of lung cancer. There is, instead, a stigma that the disease is self-inflicted; an illness brought on by a life of smoking. Research and funding is limited and the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 15.5 percent; it hasn't budged in 40 years. More than half of all people with lung cancer die within a year of being diagnosed.
Costello hung on for 18 extra days.
So Harrison runs to raise money and awareness about the disease that took her friend's life. The Great Lung Run has raised more than $150,000 for Jill's Legacy, an advisory board to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, the charity Costello worked closely with in the months before her death.
Darby Anderson, the director of Jill's Legacy, said at first she didn't think Harrison would follow through with her plan to run across the country.
"I thought she was nuts," said Anderson, who was a sorority sister and close friend of Costello's. "I told her to call me back when she had an actual plan and then we would take her project from there. … [That] April I saw her in D.C. when I was there for our Jog for Jill Georgetown and she had a website, route, places to stay and was ready to actually make this happen. I was blown away."
Harrison was up early every morning to jog her 30 miles, taking a day off every 10 days or so to let her body rest. She took a break to walk every once in a while, but never stopped moving until the 30 miles were finished.
"It's just like getting up and going to work," Harrison said. "Sure there are days where it wasn't the first thing I wanted to be doing but that was my routine and my job at the time, so just gotta get up and do it."
Harrison's not sure how, but after 3,500 miles, she feels OK.
"I don't have an answer as to why I'm holding up so well," Harrison said. "It's a mystery to me just like everyone else. … People said they think I have the right motivation and someone special looking over me."
Harrison ran solo for the first six weeks of her trip, pushing her belongings in a jogging stroller and staying with hosts who would pick her up at the end of each run and drop her off the next morning where she left off. Eventually one of her friends from Jill's Legacy joined her on the road in a donated car, driving her to and from hotels along the way.
(The donated car, by the way, was a gold Chrysler 300 with 22-inch rims. When their first donated car lost its power steering the girls ended up at Oscar's Auto Salvage in New Mexico, hoping to sell it and rent one for the remainder of the trip. Instead, Henry, the shop's owner, offered his own tricked-out car for the final months of the trip.)
Just another day at the office
Running more than a marathon every day for four months sounds nearly impossible, but Harrison said from the start that if Costello could accomplish as much as she did in her last year of life, all while being ravaged by chemo, then a simple jog across the country was nothing.
"I spent a week with her on the road and she'd finish up her run and it was like she had just finished a day at work," Anderson said. "We would hang out, head to dinner, chit-chat and do completely normal things, except that she had just run 30 miles that day. … Kelcey has more courage and inspiration than anyone I have ever met and I am so grateful to have been able to just be a small part of this huge adventure."
The last part of The Great Lung Run was across the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field. The Cal crew team, Harrison and Costello's high school crew team and other friends and family joined in for the final miles.
The official completion of Harrison's run took place last Thursday -- a celebratory cocktail party at St. Ignatius College Prep, the high school she and Costello attended. Harrison had been honoring Costello's memory with each step of her journey, but returning to a place where they grew up was difficult.
"It's not hard to think about Jill all the time because she sort of turns into this image, a legend" Harrison said. "What's hard is when you find those moments to step back and remember Jill your friend. Jill who did Halloween costumes with me for 16 years of our lives. That's where it's tough.
"It's become bigger than her, which sometimes is sad because you feel like you're forgetting a little bit of your friend, but in her last year of life that's really what she was aiming for. All of us at Jill's Legacy are really proud of what we're accomplishing but also really sad about [the reason] we're all involved in this."
Harrison will wake up this week with no miles to run, no path to follow. She's no longer interested in attending law school, but isn't quite sure what she wants to do instead.
"I'll take a little time to relax and then try to figure out what's next," she said. "I'm looking out for jobs, but I'll always be tied to our foundation and the cause of lung cancer. We'll always have jogs, bar events, restaurant things; anything to get more young people involved in lung cancer awareness. That will continue forever."
Lung cancer programs receive a fraction of the grants devoted to types that take fewer lives, data show. The stigma of smoking looms large.
by Bridget Huber
This article was originally published in The Orange Country Register on November 15th, 2012.
Lung cancer takes more lives than any other cancer. This year it will kill an estimated 160,340 Americans – more than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.
While lung cancer remains largely a death sentence – just 15.9 percent of those diagnosed are alive five years later – the federal government funds far less research on the disease than on other common cancers. The discrepancy is starkest when death rates are taken into account. In 2011, the two federal agencies providing most of the research money funded breast cancer research at a rate of $21,641 per death while spending $1,489 per lung cancer death.
It has been 41 years since President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, effectively declaring war on cancer. But there will be no victory without winning the battle against lung cancer, which causes more than one in four U.S. cancer deaths. Advocates say efforts to improve lung cancer patients' chances have been stalled by unexamined biases among health officials and the public as well as by scant research funds. They also cite the paradoxical invisibility of a disease that claims so many lives but has few champions of the sort who have brought breast cancer to national prominence.
The stigma of smoking is largely to blame. Anti-tobacco campaigns have done their job too well, leading many to see lung cancer as self-inflicted. That stigma keeps some families and patients from speaking out, while corporate donors stay away from the disease, and some scientists and policymakers question whether scarce research dollars should be devoted to a smokers' illness.
But an estimated 15 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in people who never smoked. If lung cancer in these people was considered a separate disease, it would still be the sixth-leading cancer killer in the U.S., ahead of liver, ovarian and esophageal cancers. Researchers estimate that an additional roughly 50 percent of lung cancer cases involve former smokers who quit the habit years ago.
"This is a public health problem that needs to be addressed regardless of how it came about," said Dr. David Carbone, a leading lung cancer researcher at Ohio State University. "We need to take care of those who are sick and need to do everything we can from a public policy perspective to reduce the number of people at risk in the future."
Recent breakthroughs in cancer genetics and lung cancer screening have added urgency to advocates' calls for more money for lung cancer research, which will get $231.2 million this year from the two main federal agencies funding such work. "We are at a precipice where we could really break through," said Kim Norris, president of the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.
But these advances have come at a time when funding for all research is scarce. And many influential scientists balk at letting pressure from advocates influence research priorities. In their view, it could set the entire cancer research field back by creating a quota system for research on specific cancers that could divert funds from the most cutting-edge science.
Carbone, however, says unless a portion of federal funds is specifically directed to lung cancer, advances in the field will remain baby steps. "We didn't send people to the moon because we happened to have a rocket ship sitting around. We sent people to the moon by saying, 'That's what we want to do.' And then we figured out how to do it."
Making that moonshot will mean convincing the public and policymakers that lung cancer victims are worthy of support. Part of the challenge is that the disease is so deadly that there is no critical mass of survivors to raise its profile. Most people are diagnosed at an advanced stage and die within six months, said Jeffrey Borgia, a cancer researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "There's not much time to fit a walkathon in," he said.
In contrast, breast cancer advocates have raised millions through everything from road races to galas. The White House is lit pink each October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons have been attached to items including pistols and fried chicken buckets, becoming so ubiquitous that some question whether the cause has become too commercialized. Lung cancer groups, however, have struggled to attract attention. The original color for lung cancer ribbons was clear – as in, invisible.
Perhaps the best example of how strong advocates can spur scientific research is the Defense Department's medical research program. In 1992, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, led by a breast cancer survivor and lawyer Fran Visco, persuaded the Defense Department to create a breast cancer research program funded by Congress. The resulting Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program has been allocated $2.8 billion for breast cancer research in the past two decades.
But even though the armed forces skew heavily male and military members smoke at high rates (cigarettes once were included in soldiers' rations and have been sold at cut-rate prices on military bases), it was 17 years before the program began researching lung cancer in 2009.
"It's really challenging now. There just isn't a champion," said Regina Vidaver, executive director of the National Lung Cancer Partnership.
The stigma problem
Before it can find its champion, lung cancer will have to shed its stigma. Last summer, advocates released an ad campaign aimed at shocking the public into examining its biases against people with lung cancer.
Posters featuring a young man with geeky glasses and a plaid scarf began popping up across the country. "Hipsters deserve to die," they read. "Cat lovers deserve to die," read another.
The point was provocation, said Kay Cofrancesco, a spokeswoman for the Lung Cancer Alliance, which sponsored the ads. When a person hears that an acquaintance has lung cancer, she said, a question immediately springs to mind: Did he or she smoke?
The answer often is no. Yet the stigma persists, even though lung cancer among nonsmokers is rising, with women accounting for two-thirds of these diagnoses. One famous example is Dana Reeve, the singer-actress and widow of Christopher Reeve. A nonsmoker, Reeve was just beginning to emerge from the grief of losing her husband when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at age 44.
Yet blaming smokers who fell prey to cigarette marketing seems inconsistent – after all, society condemns tobacco companies for deceiving customers and even maximizing the addictiveness of cigarettes. We should "vilify the tobacco industry instead of vilifying patients," said Dr. Carolyn Dresler, an official with the Arkansas Public Health Department.
Lung cancer can be caused by such factors as exposure to radon, asbestos and other toxins. About 10 percent of lung cancer deaths are linked to heredity, said Ann Schwartz, a researcher at Wayne State University in Detroit. Yet lung cancer's image as solely a smoker's disease can undercut support for research that looks at other causes, such as heredity.
Changing the money
Many lung cancer advocates and researchers have called for a reassessment of the way money is distributed at the country's largest funder of cancer research, the National Cancer Institute.
Research grants from the NCI are the most important financing a cancer researcher can get. But the NCI's funding, allocated by Congress, has remained nearly flat since 2003, though it did get an additional $1.26 billion as part of the stimulus package of 2009.
Congress does not dictate how much NCI can spend on each type of cancer. Instead, NCI funds the cutting-edge science most likely to move the entire field of cancer research forward.
Lung cancer receives less funding than other cancers under this approach, too. In fiscal year 2012, the NCI will devote $221 million in research grants to lung cancer and $712 million to breast cancer, according to National Institutes of Health estimates.
NCI officials caution against reading too much into these numbers. Most of the research it funds is basic research applicable to multiple types of cancer. The institute also funds tobacco control and financed the National Lung Screening Trial, a large, multiyear study that showed that screening smokers via low-dose CT scans reduces the number of lung cancer deaths.
But some researchers, like Carbone, say the problem with the NCI's prerogative of funding the most advanced cancer research, regardless of what organ it involves, is that research on some types of cancer is further along than others. Breast cancer, for example, has been better funded for longer and had earlier breakthroughs that attracted more top researchers and more funding, from the federal government and other sources. "The infrastructure in the one disease is better than the other. It's a self-perpetuating problem," Carbone said.
Cancer research is increasingly focused at the molecular level instead of at the organ level. Researchers now know that cancers at different sites in the body can be caused by some of the same genetic mutations. But a single mutation can behave differently in different organs, so it is still necessary to look at particular cancers such as lung cancer, Carbone said.
The other side of the argument is represented by Dr. Harold Varmus, the NCI's director. He declined to be interviewed, but in a speech at the National Press Club in September, he said he would "object dramatically" to efforts such as legislation that would force the NCI to set aside specific pots of money for certain cancers. This approach, advocated by some groups over the years, would "take the decision-making about grant making out of the hands of the NCI and [put] it in the hands of advocacy groups," he said.
A huge "Thank You" to Owner Kim Evans and Director Christina Motes at Woodchase Academay in Vinings for their Lung Cancer Awareness Month fund raiser!
Through the generosity of the Woodchase families, they were able to raise $1,000 for The Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Fund!
Proceeds go to the research being done at ALCMI, as well as awareness efforts in North Georgia. Thank you, Woodchase!