Health and Healthcare

Why we must act now to shape a lung cancer revolution

Hand-drawn greeting card reading 'Never Ever Give Up' repeated over serval lines: Treat lung cancer as a global priority for SDG 3.4.

Treat lung cancer as a global priority for SDG 3.4. Image: Unsplash/National Cancer Institute

Bruce Keogh
Former National Medical Director (2013-2018), National Health Service England
Douglas Wood
The Henry N. Harkins Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery , University of Washington
Donatella Decise
Global Director, Patient Engagement, Novartis
David Fredrickson
Executive Vice-President, Oncology Business Unit, AstraZeneca
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  • Achieving SDG 3.4 – which aims to reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 2030 – can only be achieved if countries include plans to reduce lung cancer.
  • The Lung Cancer Collaboration serves to drive improvement in the three areas of screening and early detection, quality of care received by people with lung cancer and encouraging countries to finance and develop the necessary infrastructure.
  • Expanding the use of innovative technologies will vastly improve survival rates in lung cancer.

By 2030, premature mortality from lung cancer is estimated to increase by 30%. Simultaneously, countries have the formidable challenge of reducing premature mortality from non-communicable disease (NCD) by one-third through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3.4).

As lung cancer is a leading NCD, these statistics motivate us to rethink, redesign and reset our approach to lung cancer prevention, detection and treatment. As lung cancer is the largest cause of premature cancer mortality, SDG 3.4 is a pipe dream for much of the world without interventions that decrease lung cancer mortality specifically.

Currently, lung cancer interventions worldwide have focused on primary prevention and risk reduction through tobacco control, an important priority yet insufficient to address the current impact of smoking-related disease and the opportunity to decrease mortality through lung cancer early diagnosis and access to appropriate medical care. Our ambition is to drive lung cancer further up the global health care agenda and encourage countries to act now to meet their SDG 3.4 goals.

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Partnering to combat lung cancer

Since 2021, the Lung Ambition Alliance (a global coalition with the bold ambition to eliminate lung cancer as a cause of death), in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, has partnered with over 30 organizations, pharma industries and individuals under the banner of the Lung Cancer Collaboration (LCC). These global health leaders have convened to identify how to drive improvements in three key areas, leading to greater prioritization of lung cancer in individual countries.

These key areas include screening and early detection, quality of care received by people with lung cancer and encouraging countries to finance and develop infrastructure to support lung cancer early detection and quality of care.

Our recommendations are straightforward: demonstrate a compelling case for adopting targeted lung cancer screening and early diagnosis. Through uniform and innovative technologies, countries should ensure that lung cancer early detection is prioritized and promoted as the most effective intervention to reduce lung cancer mortality, especially in high-risk and historically underserved populations. We already see innovations in low- and middle-income countries, particularly the expansion of artificial intelligence use in X-rays for earlier lung cancer diagnosis, improving patient referral and diagnostic pathways.

Faster treatment response

We must also consider the quality of care that people with lung cancer receive. The right treatment must be provided at the right time to improve outcomes, which means reducing the time from first patient interaction to diagnosis and initiation of treatment, implementing multidisciplinary care and investing in affordable and accessible technologies for lung cancer care.

However, we can't achieve these without ensuring that investment in lung cancer is prioritized. Countries around the world need to invest in these lung cancer initiatives and National Cancer Control Plans (NCCPs) must include lung cancer with cost-benefit analysis supporting smarter investment decisions.

The opportunity for improvement is now. Considerable support and collaboration from health systems, industry, academic institutions, healthcare workforce and others, both private and public, across the globe, must cooperate for success. What we have achieved as a global community following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that we can do the same for a collaborative lung cancer project.

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Moving with urgency

Joint public and private-led programmes show the speed at which great initiatives can be achieved. Lung cancer must be the next national and global priority in this partnership proposal.

We are so encouraged to see that the World Health Assembly is working towards better coordination around prevention and control of NCDs. These efforts align with our goal to integrate early detection and care of lung cancer into countries' NCCPs part of the set of recommendations and goals outlined in our report, Urgent, Coordinated Global Action on Lung Cancer.

Join us in our ambition as we work towards a lung cancer revolution and the goal of transforming people living with lung cancer into lung cancer survivors.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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