Australia is renowned for world-class medical research in the areas of oncology, cancer therapeutics and diseases of the lung. While significant progress and awareness has been made in many areas (i.e. breast and prostate cancer) there is little in the way of a concerted research program in the area of respiratory cancer. Lung cancer is a multi-faceted disease and can be sub classified into a series of unique types including small-cell carcinoma, affecting the central airways, and non-small cell carcinoma affecting the smaller airways. Lung cancer is the fourth most common cancer in Australia and has the highest mortality rate of all cancers. Data from the Bureau of Statistics indicated that almost 10,000 cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Australia in 2007.
Lung Cancer Affects Everyone
Lung cancer affects the whole population demographic, across a wide socioeconomic status and is the leading cause of cancer in the Aboriginal population. Contrary to popular belief, lung cancer affects not only smokers but also non-smokers. In women, only 65% of cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking, with lung cancer killing more women than breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined. Furthermore, there is a lack of screening and routine diagnostic tests that allow for early detection. Remarkably, while significant advancements have been made in the treatment and diagnosis of other cancers, the five-year survival rate after lung cancer diagnosis is only 13%.
Interestingly, there is a perceived stigma attached to lung cancer and it is generally considered a taboo public subject. While associations such as the Lung Foundation Network have initiatives to raise public awareness, including television advertisements, there is neither sufficient funding nor a concerted effort to develop new diagnostic tools, understand the mechanism behind the diseases or develop new treatments.