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The Fight of Our Lives: Confronting the Unmet Need in Lung Cancer

Bonnie J. Addario
Supporting, funding, and protecting the research and development of new medicines and new treatments is more critical, now than ever, to provide better treatments and better outcomes to all cancer patients.
The Need to Redesign Clinical Studies for Maximal Benefit

On a broader level, we also need to examine clinical trial design in order to change the current dismal patient accrual rates of 3% to 5%. Clinical trial design needs an overhaul that would allow trials to be more inclusive, patient friendly, and easier to access, so that precious research dollars can be maximized to speed up the development of newer diagnostics, prognostics, and therapeutics. We need clinical trial data that is publicly available, so that it may advance the current state of lung cancer science and research, and inform the design of future clinical trials. 

At ALCMI, we have successfully implemented a remote clinical study participation platform that allows young, lung cancer patients, from countries around the world—Italy, Turkey, Brazil, and New Zealand—to participate in the Genomics of Young Lung Study (GoYLC) trial1 that is investigating mechanisms of tumor initiation and progression in patients under 40 years old. It is important that the field continues to change paradigms of how trials and studies are run, so that patients can look forward to better outcomes and more hope. 

Not only do we need the clinical medicine ecosystem to change and adapt in order to bring newer treatments forward, we also need the patient to take a seat at the table, join clinical trials, and provide valuable data to drive faster cures.

Take Jeff Julian. Diagnosed in 2015, the 39-year-old former Olympic Trials finalist and Rose Bowl Aquatics head coach was shocked when he found out he had stage IV lung cancer. Because of his participation in a clinical trial for nivolumab, a breakthrough I-O drug, his tumors have significantly regressed and his disease is under control. Jeff knows, firsthand, that innovative treatments save countless lung cancer patients’ lives.

This year alone, more than 200,000 people in the United States received a lung cancer diagnosis.2 Innovative medicines, like immunotherapy drugs, have and will save countless lung cancer patients’ lives. We need to continue to support the researchers and doctors pushing the envelope, and seeking new approaches and treatments to cure lung cancer.

Medical innovation works best when patients, donors, clinicians, pharma, biotech, payers, government, public, and private enterprise all take a seat at the table to collaboratively drive research. The lives of patients, around the world, are possible because of the stream of new research and novel drugs that help us fight lung cancer. It is a promising time for lung cancer patients and we are just getting started.

Personalized Medicine Should Lead the Way

Across the board, we see a heightened focus on precision medicine and personalized medicine, from President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative3 to the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy and Fast Track approval process.4 Precision medicine empowers oncologists to test, profile, and target genomic mutations that cause cancer to grow and spread. Personalized medicine takes a step back and looks at the whole person, his or her age, medical history, ethnicity, and other factors that might influence treatment decisions.

As an advocate for personalized medicine, the ALCF has established 20 Centers of Excellence in community hospitals, nationwide, to ensure all patients receive genomic testing that can guide the treatments they receive. The ALCF also collaborated with 16 other lung cancer organizations on the Don’t Guess.Test. campaign5 to expand awareness and educate patients about the importance of comprehensive genomic testing in lung cancer, so that each patient receives the right treatment at the right time. We have created both, an online patient portal and an app for lung cancer patients; we fund research initiatives, such as the GoYLC study and the Clinical Trials Innovation Prize. We are working hard to move the dial to improve the 16% survival rate for lung cancer patients.

We now have an arsenal of new resources for lung cancer patients who are living well longer than previously imagined; yet, in the United States alone, 450 patients die from lung cancer every day.2 Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of men and women, killing almost twice as many women, as any other cancers. It accounts for 27% of all cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of all deaths in the country.

As a lung cancer patient and a patient advocate, I know the stakes have never been higher for patients waiting for new medicines that could improve treatment, save lives, and offer hope to families. Supporting, funding, and protecting the research and development of new medicines and new treatments is more critical, now than ever, to provide better treatments and better outcomes to all cancer patients. Patients deserve it. EBO

Bonnie J. Addario is a stage IIIB lung cancer survivor and founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI). For more information please visit
  1. Genomics of Young Lung Cancer study.  Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute website. Accessed January 12, 2016.
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer facts & figures 2015. Accessed January 12, 2015.
  3. Fact sheet: President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative [press release]. Washington, DC: The White House; January 30, 2015.
  4. Walia G. Breakthrough medicines usher in hopeful era for lung cancer patients. Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation website. Published December 18, 2015. Accessed January 7, 2016.
  5. Don’t Guess Test website. Accessed January 7, 2016.
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