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Breaking through limits in lung cancer: Introducing the Lung Ambition Alliance

Published on 07/10/19 at 10:34am

Lung cancer kills more patients than any other variety of cancer, accounting for around a fifth of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. In 2018 alone, the disease claimed 1.8 million lives around the globe – that’s a life lost every 18 seconds. A huge factor in these high mortality rates is timely diagnosis, or lack thereof; currently, 40% of patients are diagnosed when their cancer has already metastasised and spread beyond the lungs to other parts of the body, negatively impacting their prognosis. As a result, just one in five lung cancer patients survive for more than five years following diagnosis.  

The challenge ahead is clear, and so far has proven too daunting for any single body to effectively tackle. But a new coalition has formed with a fresh outlook, a robust strategy, and the determination to topple this giant and make the destructive impact of lung cancer a thing of the past: The Lung Ambition Alliance. 

Formed from the union of expert organisations from all corners of the lung cancer space, the Alliance brings together expertise in education, diagnostics, patient advocacy, and medicines research and development to create a coherent and multi-disciplined approach to the disease in a way that has not been seen before in the space. These founding partners include

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC), diagnostics specialist Guardant Health, and multinational pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

The Alliance isn’t afraid to aim for the stars, and its first goal is certainly an ambitious one:  to double five-year survival in lung cancer by 2025.

Backing up this lofty target is a thorough approach centered on three priorities: increasing screening and early diagnosis, delivering innovative medicine, and improving the quality of care for people with lung cancer.

Patrick Connor, VP and Global Franchise Head, Tumor Drivers and Resistance Mechanisms, at AstraZeneca, discusses his company’s role in the Lung Ambition Alliance and its strategy for supercharging outcomes for lung cancer patients.

Among men, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer‐related deaths in 87 countries, and among women in 26 countries.i All told, lung cancer is responsible for nearly one in five cancer deaths worldwide.ii And in many countries, including the US and UK, lung cancer is the number one cancer killer.iii,iv

To accelerate our progress toward improving the lives of lung cancer patients and their families, we at AstraZeneca are proud to be one of the founding partners of The Lung Ambition Alliance, along with our colleagues at the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC), Guardant Health, and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

As my colleague Jesme Fox, Secretary for GLCC, has said so well: “The Lung Ambition Alliance has been created at a pivotal time for lung cancer. Scientific advances are enabling new possibilities to transform diagnosis, treatment and the management of the disease, yet barriers remain to improving and accelerating care. As members of the lung cancer community, we have a responsibility to come together with urgency to advocate for and advance the best solutions for patients.”

As The Lung Ambition Alliance, we are individually and collectively committed to a tightly focused mission: doubling five-year survival by 2025, and ultimately, eliminating lung cancer as a cause of death. Beyond the existing efforts on prevention, that means targeting every point in the patient journey with innovative and effective strategies, from establishing early diagnosis through broader screening guidelines, to developing more targeted treatments, to ensuring the best quality of care and support for patients and families.

Our model incorporates both corporate and non-profit leaders in research and education, diagnostics, patient advocacy, and clinical research and development. We are beginning a movement designed to grow, welcoming all those who believe that breaking siloes, facilitating dialogue, and collaboratively searching for new solutions is the best way to accelerate the extraordinary potential of today’s science and technology.

Our strategy to transform the lung cancer patient experience includes three key priorities, aligned against each major stage of the patient journey:

Priority 1: Increase early diagnosis among high risk patients through both better, broader screening for lung cancer, and critically, raising awareness of the strong evidence linking earlier screening and reduced mortality rates.v,vi One vital initiative already in the field is the Early Lung Imaging Confederation (ELIC), a secure, cloud-based platform of thousands of lung cancer CT scans and biomedical data, designed to accelerate detection of lung cancers early enough to treat with curative intent.vii The Alliance is working with IASLC to build out the image bank, and to measure patient outcomes at critical junctures in the patient journey. One of the exciting aspects of ELIC is its ability to be used to build better risk models, as well as analysis and detection tools, while serving as a global standard for data quality. viii

Priority 2: Deliver innovative medicine to the lung cancer community. Already a major commitment at AstraZeneca, investments made in science, people and technology have helped numerous patients, largely through the rapid uptake of precision medicine in the late stages of certain stages in lung cancer.ix,x As part of our commitment to helping more patients realise the promise of these treatments, The Lung Ambition Alliance is supporting the IASLC Staging Project in collecting, mining and analysing data on lung cancer patients diagnosed over the past decadexi,xii to inform the 9th edition of the Tumour, Node and Metastasis (TNM) Staging System; previous editions have been adopted in both the US (American Joint Committee on Cancer) and globally (Union for International Cancer Control).xiii The goal of this work is to improve accurate staging, potentially allowing patients to take advantage of innovative treatments earlier in their disease progression, when treating with curative intent is still possible.

In a related effort, the Alliance is using its deep and broad relationships to continue building The Major Pathologic Response Project, a collection of clinical trial data and research that can be used to validate surrogate endpoints and identify predictive biomarkers. These in turn, will become an important resource to accelerate the development of next-generation treatments for an ever-expanding range of tumour types and genetic mutations.

Priority 3: Enhance quality care for patients and families, a global effort encouraging adherence to multidisciplinary best practices, educating patients about their options, and providing quality-of-life support to patients throughout and following their treatment journey. Later this year, the Alliance is launching Initiatives in Lung Cancer Care (ILC2), an open invitation to patient organisations worldwide to submit projects that have the potential to improve five-year survival for lung cancer patients in their respective countries. We’re especially energised by ILC2’s potential to connect and fuel lung cancer advocates at the local level – and bring the promise of new attention and rigor to lung cancer patients wherever they live and seek care.

We invite the lung cancer community to visit us at the Lung Ambition Alliance for continuing conversation, calls to action, and important updates. Together we will ensure that lung cancer can be transformed from poor patient outcomes to a disease that can be successfully treated in more people, offering new hope to families and communities across the world.

Selected sources:

  • Biomedical Reports
  • F1000 Research
  • International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer
  • The National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • World Cancer Research Fund

[i] IASLC. IASLC Successfully Pilots Early Lung Imaging Confederation Project. Available at Accessed August 2019

[ii] IASLC. Lung Ambition Alliance launches with goal to double five-year survival in lung cancer by 2025. Available at Accessed August 2019

[iii] Jones G, et al. Recent advances in the management of lung cancer. Clinical Medicine. 2018;18(2):s41–s6

[iv] Mascaux C, et al. Personalised medicine for nonsmall cell lung cancer. European Respiratory Review. 2017;26

[v] Goldstraw et al. The IASLC Lung Cancer Staging Project: Proposals for the Revision of the TNM Stage Groupings in the Forthcoming (Seventh) Edition of the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours. J Thorac Oncol. 2007;2: 706–714

[vi] Giroux, DJ et al. The IASLC Lung Cancer Staging Project: A Renewed Call to Participation. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2018;13(6):801-809

[vii] Lababede O & Meziane MA. The Eighth Edition of TNM Staging of Lung Cancer: Reference Chart and Diagrams. Oncologist. 2018; 23(7): 844–848

[viii] Islami, F., Torre, L. A., & Jemal, A. (2015). Global trends of lung cancer mortality and smoking prevalence. Translational lung cancer research, 4(4), 327–338. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2218-6751.2015.08.04

[ix] World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Fact Sheet – World. Available at Accessed August 2019

[x] World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Fact Sheet – UK. Available at Accessed August 2019

[xi] World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Fact Sheet – US. Available at Accessed August 2019

[xii] The National Lung Screening Trial Research Team. Reduced Lung-cancer Mortality with Low-dose Computed Tomographic Screening. N Engl J Med. 2011;365(5):395–409

[xiii] Yousaf-Khan U, et al. Final Screening Round of the NELSON Lung Cancer Screening Trial: The Effect of a 2.5-year Screening Interval. Thorax. 2017;72:48–56

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