The challenge facing lung cancer specialists in the UK is daunting. While good progress is being made in some areas of management, the level of improvement in others is less impressive. Indeed, only 51% of lung cancer patients currently receive any kind of active treatment. In some Trusts, it is less than 10%.
Investment in lung cancer is clearly disproportionate to the money spent on investigating its causes and that invested in potential therapeutic interventions. It is implicated in 22% of all cancer-related deaths in the UK, but attracts only 5% of total oncology research funding.
Meanwhile, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK, with nearly 40,000 new cases diagnosed a year, according to the most recently available statistics.
New prescribing strategies based, for example, on the identification of genetic mutations in individual patients and differentiating between squamous and non-squamous histology, may help to make better use of new targeted therapies in the future—and even more costeffective use of well-established cytotoxic chemotherapy regimens.
Whether or not the NHS will be able or willing to support such initiatives is another question altogether.
These were among the issues that emerged during Oncology Outcomes—Taking Control of Tomorrow, a meeting of oncologists and other health-care professionals with an interest in prescribing and service provision for lung cancer patients, held at the Royal College of Physicians in London on 5 November 2010.