This week, I am in Geneva to attend the European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC). If I were asked to describe in one word the mood during the ongoing congress, it would have to be ‘optimism’. It’s not a term frequently ascribed to lung cancer, which remains the most common cancer in the world for several decades, as well the biggest cancer killer globally. So what, you may ask, may we be optimistic about?
While we’ve witnessed steady advances in both the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer over the last several decades, two things emerge perhaps as the biggest driving forces behind this renewed sense of optimism: first, the mobilisation around prevention of lung cancer, and secondly, our growing comprehension of the complexities of this particular cancer – or cancers.
Examples of such powerful campaigns in Europe are ample, just look at the awareness campaigns of the patient group Lung Cancer Europe (LuCE) or the European Lung Foundation, to name but a couple. And this gives hope that incidence will decrease and we’ll reverse the current trend of only 15% of lung cancer cases being diagnosed early enough to significantly reduce mortality.
The second piece, around better understanding of the disease, is coming out strongly in the ELCC sessions here in Geneva. The opening presentations on Wednesday already highlighted how improved understanding of the biology of lung cancer is resulting in better disease management as well as in the discovery of new targeted therapies for improved patient outcomes. The way we apply science is changing with this knowledge. In an inspiring opening lecture, Dr. Suresh Senan highlighted how clinical trial design is being optimised to the different, sub-types and histologies and how the lung cancer registry in Denmark has been adapting to this knowledge.
At Lilly, we believe that each step that helps us better understand cancer could be a step closer to a cure. It may only represent the next of many, incremental steps to come, but it’s certainly reason enough for optimism.