Female Lung Cancer Deaths to Surpass Breast Cancer in Europe
In January 2015, a study by researchers from Switzerland and Italy revealed that lung cancer deaths among women in Europe would overtake those from breast cancer in 2015. Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for 13% of all cancer deaths worldwide. That represents a death toll of 1.6 million people, over 80% of who are tobacco users. While European men have been more afflicted by the disease due to higher smoking rates, the rates among men have been on the decline in the recent past. Meanwhile, the rates among women have been on an upward trend. This year, the prevalence of lung cancer among women in Europe is expected to rise by 9% over 2009 levels to reach 14.24 per 100,000 of population. Meanwhile, the death rate from breast cancer over the same period will fall by 10.2% to 14.22 deaths per 100,000 of population.
The rise is attributed to the delayed effect of the surge in smoking among European women during the period after the 2nd World War and extending to the late 1960s. The UK is one of the main drivers of this trend. Of all the countries surveyed independently, the UK had the highest level of lung cancer deaths, 21 per 100,000 of population. Professor Carlo La Vecchia of the University of Milan, who is also the lead researcher attributed this to the fact that, “…British women started smoking during the second world war, while in most other EU countries women started after 1968.”
Research Shows Personalized Treatments are Underutilized
An international survey conducted between December and January 2015 revealed that the rates of patients receiving personalized treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains low despite a large proportion of them (81%) having been tested for EGFR mutations. The results of the study were released in April in Ingelheim Germany, the seat of the Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical group which is the main sponsor of the study. The results were collected from 562 oncologists from 10 developed countries across Asia, Europe and North America. In Europe, 30% of advanced NSCLC patients were put on first-line treatment before their test results were ready, displaying a huge disparity with Asia (12%). The average global rates were 25%. The main reasons cited by oncologists for non-testing were insufficient tissue, poor patient fitness and protracted process of acquiring results once samples had been taken. Additionally 51% of all oncologists involved in the study stated that their treatment decisions were not dependent on EGFR mutation subtype of their patients. EGFR mutations are present in 40% of East Asian and 10-15% of white NSCLC patients. ESMO clinical practice guidelines recommend the use of EFGR mutation testing results to guide treatment decisions according to each patient’s specific cancer type as this has been shown to improve survival rates at least with the Del 19 mutation, the most common type of mutation.
 Afatinib versus cisplatin-based chemotherapy for EGFR mutation-positive lung adenocarcinoma (LUX-Lung 3 and LUX-Lung 6): analysis of overall survival data from two randomised, phase 3 trials
Yang, James Chih-Hsin et al., The Lancet Oncology , Volume 16 , Issue 2 , 141 – 151
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