Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death and is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths due to cancer in the United States (ACS 2013a). It accounts for 13-14% of all cancer diagnoses, making it the second most commonly diagnosed malignancy in both men and women (not counting skin cancers) (ACS 2013a; ACS 2014a). Until the 20th century, however, lung cancer was a relatively rare disease. That changed with the advent of wide-scale cigarette smoking, which remains the leading cause of lung cancer today (Proctor 2001; A.D.A.M. 2013a; Hill 2003; OSH 2006).
There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The majority of lung cancer patients have NSCLC, which usually grows and spreads more slowly and has a better 5-year overall survival rate than SCLC (NCI 2013a; NCI 2013c; A.D.A.M. 2013a; ACS 2013a).
The primary treatments for lung cancer are the same as those for most solid tumors: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Their applicability and effectiveness depend on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed, subtype classification, and genetic characteristics (A.D.A.M. 2013a; Hofmann 2006; Ellis 2012).
Although 1-year survival rates for lung cancer have improved in the past 3 decades thanks to better surgical techniques and treatments, the 5-year survival rate for all stages combined is still relatively poor at only about 16%. Patients whose cancer is diagnosed early, before it spreads, have a 5-year survival rate of 52%; however, just 15% of lung cancers are diagnosed at this stage. Overall, the 5-year survival rate for small cell lung cancer (6%) is lower than for non-small cell lung cancer (18%) (ACS 2013a; Dela Cruz 2011; American Lung Association 2014c; Youlden 2008; NCI 2014d).
Several efforts are underway to improve outcomes in lung cancer patients. Recommendations for routine screening of current and former smokers, emphasis on personalized genomic medicine with targeted therapies, and the development of highly specific drugs focused on destroying malignant tissue while sparing healthy cells represent key opportunities in the battle against lung cancer (Schabath 2014; Moyer 2013; Ma 2013; Clinical Lung Cancer Genome Project 2013; Heuvers, Hegmans 2012; Heuvers, Aerts 2012; Wouters 1999; Nascimento 2014).
In this protocol, you will learn about the fundamentals of lung cancer and lung cancer treatment, novel and emerging strategies such as cancer vaccines, as well as scientifically studied integrative interventions that may target some of the underlying mechanisms that drive lung cancer.