Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the United States, claiming the lives of about 160,000 Americans each year – more than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. The survival outlook is dismal, with 17.4 percent of patients surviving five years after being diagnosed. With a 1 in 14 lifetime chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer, it is clear that progress is desperately needed to combat this disease. Additionally, the economic burden of lung cancer care is staggering, as the estimated annual cost of $12.1 billion is projected to increase by at least 25 percent over the next five years.
There are two major types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). While the majority of lung cancer patients have the NSCLC subtype, SCLC patients suffer from the more aggressive of the two, with a much lower five-year survival rate.
There are a number of challenges and unmet needs that stand in the way of desperately needed progress in SCLC research and treatment science.
Problem: SCLC-specific funding is scarce, which is underscored by the fact that there is currently only one active NIH R01- level funded grant for SCLC. Although SCLC has been declared as a recalcitrant cancer under the RCRA, this is currently an unfunded mandate in which no additional federal funds have been specifically allocated towards the research framework put forth by the SCLC Working Group. Overall, this lack of funding not only restricts ongoing research programs, but also discourages young talent from the field, thereby confounding limits on progress in both the near and long-term future.
Potential Solutions: Incentivize researchers to study SCLC – Low funding levels deter scientists from pursing certain areas of research. A focused effort to encourage investigators to study the basic biology of SCLC is needed.
Incentivize young scientists to enter the SCLC field – Encouraging young investigators to enter this field would help secure continuity of research programs and eventually lead to new discoveries that are necessary for therapeutic development.
Problem: Clinical trial data silos can lead to duplicative efforts and ultimately limit target discovery. By allowing access to data, researchers from around the world can interrogate the data, compare findings, and tailor future clinical investigations accordingly, thus increasing the likelihood of discovery.
Potential Solutions: Aggregate and clean patient data from multiple institutions for future analysis.
Develop a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) with clear guidelines for data sharing before the start of a trial.
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