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Recognizing Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2020

How Can We Best Serve Patients with Lung Cancer?


Lung Cancer Awareness Month offers an opportunity to pause and assess how we address this complex and deadly disease. We must continually ask ourselves: How can we best serve patients affected by lung cancer? 

The question is far from abstract. Tragically, lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of all cancers. Worldwide, an estimated 2.1 million people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and 1.8 million will die. That is far too many people. We have much room and need for improvement.

As a researcher focused on this disease, I feel we must address prevention and interception, in addition to treatment. When it comes to prevention, smoking cessation efforts are crucial, and many societies have successfully achieved a decrease in smoking rates in recent years. But we must also address detection.  Sadly, by the time the majority of patients know they have lung cancer, the disease has progressed to a less-treatable stage. Our goal should be to identify and intercept lung cancer earlier, when we believe it is easier to treat and when we can hopefully improve survival rates.  

I have focused my career on researching new treatments and I am optimistic about the evolution beyond chemotherapy and radiation as we better understand the biology, mechanisms and mutations driving lung cancer. At Janssen, we’re now creating immuno-oncology treatments that educate the immune system to intercept and attack disease. We’re developing targeted therapies for specific drivers of lung cancer.  We’re advancing new generations of medicines that respond when tumors develop resistance to current treatments.  And we’re combining therapies based on individual patient needs.

Because some patients have both a known driver mutation and a known resistance mechanism, we’re even developing approaches to block not only the driver, but also the resistance mechanism before it even emerges.  This could give us a powerful new approach and way to treat lung cancer – a potential one-two punch that we’ve never had before.

Developing new and more advanced therapies is the unrelenting focus of my team, but we’re not working alone to change the outlook for patients with lung cancer. Together with the Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Initiative, we are working to create different approaches to screen, prevent and intercept lung cancer with the goal of fundamentally changing the trajectory of the disease. 

At Janssen, an organization with a track record of discovery and development in oncology, we have a strong sense of responsibility to continue to evolve the lung cancer treatment landscape.  Because of our work today, treatment of lung cancer will look much different in the future.  Someday, I hope we will recognize future Lung Cancer Awareness Months as a marker for what we have achieved with new therapies and hopefully celebrate the lives we have been able to save.  This year, it is a reminder of how determined and steadfast we must remain to eradicate this disease.

 

November 2, 2020