Cancer cell Lung cancer cells - image courtesy of the LRI EM unit Courtesy of the LRI EM Unit

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer – both here in the UK and globally.

And although the UK has seen signs of improvement – lung cancer rates in men have dropped by 50 per cent in the last four decades – a huge burden still looms. Over the last 40 years, the number of women being diagnosed with the disease has increased by 75 per cent, largely mirroring trends in smoking from decades ago.

To highlight this continuing challenge, we’ve teamed up with the prestigious journal Nature, which today publishes a series of articles that touch on some key areas for lung cancer – from research to prevention – from across the globe.

Here’s a summary of what to expect from the Nature Outlook on lung cancer.

The dominant malignancy

In the first article, Eric Bender explores global statistics for lung cancer, including the impact of smoking in the UK, and the worrying rise in men smoking in China. Our graphic below shows how lung cancer rates follow the pattern of smoking rates in the UK.


Early warning system

The next article, from Katherine Bourzac, explores the challenges facing widespread lung cancer screening, and how advances in imaging technology may help improve screening techniques in the future.

The screening imperative

Continuing with the screening theme, Professor John Field from the University of Liverpool turns a European eye on the discussion around lung cancer screening. The BBC also picked up this story.

Special treatment

On this blog, we regularly discuss the promise and challenges of developing drugs that target the precise genetic faults driving uncontrolled tumour cell growth – something Michael Eisenstein explores in relation to lung cancer in this Nature article. Matching a suitable drug to a genetically distinct group of lung cancer patients is something we’re studying as part of our Lung Matrix Trial – read more about the trial in this blog post.

Chemical tricks

Continuing the theme of treatments, Bianca Nogrady takes a look at immunotherapies – drugs that harness the body’s own immune system in the fight against cancer – which are showing promise in early stage trials for lung cancer. We recently blogged about these emerging treatments and the science behind the excitement.

Crucial clues

The next Nature article, from Sarah Deweerdt, explores research on lung cancer in people who’ve never smoked. This is important stuff. Although we should never underestimate the deadly impact of smoking, if smoking-related lung cancer was separated from the rest, lung cancer in ‘never-smokers’ would still rank seventh in global cancer death rates.

Breathing trouble

Looking beyond smoking, Traci Watson covers the evidence linking air pollution to lung cancer. This is something we blogged about following the most up to date assessment of the evidence from the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

A burning issue

And finally, Nidhi Subbaraman digs deeper on a worrying, yet intriguing, statistic – in Asia, non-smokers with lung cancer are mainly female. Find out why in this article.