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Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer-related diseases and deaths worldwide, with 30,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year.

Drs Fiona Blackhall, Corinne Faivre-Finn and their team in the Lung Cancer Group at The University of Manchester developed ground-breaking effective treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and optimised treatment for advanced small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Both treatments have had a major international impact.

NSCLC

The team conducted over 30 early phase clinical trials that demonstrated the effectiveness of gemcitabine and platinum-based chemotherapy as the first line of treatment for advanced NSCLC (previously, it had been believed that chemotherapy for NSCLC was ineffective).

This led to an increase in survival of 23% and better quality of life for patients, as well as fewer hospital admissions compared to older chemotherapy treatments.

Thanks to this work, chemotherapy regimens are now a universal standard of care for patients with NSCLC across the globe.

SCLC

The research contributed to the evidence base that platinum etoposide should be the standard first line therapy for SCLC in Europe, replacing more toxic regimens then in use (prior to this, it was only standard practice in the US).

The research also showed that by treating the whole brain with a low dose of radiation (known as prophylactic cranial irradiation) in patients with incurable SCLC, metastases in the brain reduce by 25% and one-year survival rates double from 13% to 27%, without adversely affecting the patients’ quality of life.

New guidelines issued as a result of the team’s work on NSCLC and SCLC have ensured that optimal treatment regimens are now administered worldwide.

This means that patients can expect the same improved clinical outcomes no matter where they live and are treated.

In the early 1990s, fewer than 10% of patients with lung cancer survived for one year after diagnosis. Now, 25% of patients can expect to live for two or more years.

"The guidelines ensure that optimal treatment regimens are administered worldwide such that patients can expect the same clinical outcomes regardless of where they live and are treated."

Fiona Blackhall / Clinical Senior Lecturer/Honorary Consultant Medical Oncologist