A Drop in Lung Cancer Deaths

New lung cancer treatments reduced death rate, according to new study

(RxWiki News) Deaths from the most common type of lung cancer have decreased rapidly in recent years. Researchers are saying new treatments are behind this good news.

A new study found that deaths from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the United States have dropped quickly in recent years. This is due largely in part to new lung cancer treatments, the study authors found.

“This analysis shows for the first time that nationwide mortality rates for the most common category of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, are declining faster than its incidence, an advance that correlates with the US Food and Drug Administration approval of several targeted therapies for this cancer in recent years,” said study author Dr. Douglas R. Lowy, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in a press release.

NSCLC makes up 76 percent of all lung cancer cases in the US, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This study looked at deaths from NSCLC from 2001 to 2016. During that time period, several groundbreaking treatments for this type of cancer became available.

The study authors noted that deaths from NSCLC decreased faster than the overall number of NSCLC cases. They said this suggests that survival actually improved — not just the overall rate of this type of cancer.

Among men, for example, deaths from NSCLC decreased by 3.2 percent on average each year from 2006 to 2013. Starting in 2013, the death rate decreased by 6.3 percent on average each year until 2016.

In 2013, when the death rate started to decrease even more rapidly, doctors also began routinely testing patients for genetic changes that are targeted by new NSCLC medications (targeted therapies) that were approved, according to NIH.

“The survival benefit for patients with non-small cell lung cancer treated with targeted therapies has been demonstrated in clinical trials, but this study highlights the impact of these treatments at the population level,” said lead study author Dr. Nadia Howlader, of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, in a press release. “We can now see the impact of advances in lung cancer treatment on survival.”

This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Information on study funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
September 14, 2020