AstraZeneca spearheads lung cancer alliance aiming to boost survival rates

AstraZeneca is spearheading a group of ambitious organizations bent on dramatic changes in outcomes in lung cancer. (AZ)

AstraZeneca wants to double the five-year lung cancer survival rate by 2025. That’s an ambitious target for a disease that's the leading cause of cancer deaths in the the U.S.

But AZ isn't planning to do it alone. It's one of four founding partners of the new Lung Ambition Alliance that seeks to do in lung cancer what has happened in breast cancer⁠—that is, spur an ecosystem of awareness, screening, early diagnosis, support and innovative research and treatments to ramp up survival rates.

Aside from the British drugmaker, the group is made up of a global physicians' group (International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer), patients and patient advocates (Global Lung Cancer Coalition) and a diagnostic company (Guardant Health), making it a diverse group but one with specific goals. It already has four projects underway to address a variety of issues in lung cancer.

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“We collectively believe that new advances are creating new possibilities to transform diagnosis, treatment and the management of lung cancer. And that there is reason to believe with the scientific advances that are being made that we have the opportunity to meaningfully affect outcomes in lung cancer in a way that hasn’t been on the table in the past,” David Fredrickson, executive vice president and global head of AZ’s oncology business unit, said.

However, the work needs to go beyond science and research, he pointed out. To that end, the Alliance is focused on “dramatically improving” lung cancer screening while also working together to develop innovative medicines around the world. The third area the group is addressing is quality of care for survivors, which will become increasingly necessary as survival rates increase and lung cancer becomes either a chronic disease or one that's been cured.

The projects the Alliance has begun span a range of issue areas including the use of technology to address country-to-country barriers for widespread screening, a project addressing the importance of accurate staging, a pathologic response project and a lung cancer care initiative that will seek pilot project submissions from patient groups later this year.

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“Our goal at AstraZeneca is to eliminate cancer as a cause of death. And we know that in order to be able to do that it’s going to take partnership. It’s more than just treatments, it’s also all of the things that wrap around it,” Fredrickson said.

“We know when we look at other disease areas that the meaningful improvement in terms of driving overall survival, whether it was in breast cancer or in HIV, it starts with rallying together multidisciplinary groups around a common cause. That’s what we hope this will create the impetus for,” he added. 

AstraZeneca refocused on oncology in 2014 and has since delivered a slew of new medicines including Imfinzi, Calquence, Lynparza and Tagrisso. In lung cancer, PD-L1 drug Imfinzi is approved to treat stage 3 lung cancer that can't be surgically removed, while Tagrisso is cleared as a therapy for EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer.