New Advances in Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Asia
Lung cancer is a significant health issue in Asia, particularly in countries like Vietnam, where it is the second most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. However, recent advancements in early diagnosis and treatment offer hope for lung cancer patients in the region. Mika Sovak, AstraZeneca Global Franchise Head for Lung Cancer, sheds light on these new developments.
Asia bears the burden of lung cancer, with around 60% of all cases occurring in the region. Unlike in Western countries, a notable number of Asian women who are non-smokers are being diagnosed with lung cancer. This shift in patient characteristics and tumor profiles necessitates a tailored approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Various factors contribute to the rising number of lung cancer cases in Asia. Exposure to environmental toxins, such as air pollution and poorly ventilated cooking areas, can lead to the accumulation of harmful substances in the lungs. Additionally, conditions like tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more prevalent in Asia, elevating the risk of developing lung cancer.
Furthermore, differences in the prevalence of specific genetic mutations, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation, between Asian and Western populations have been observed. Asian populations have a higher rate of EGFR mutation, which is unrelated to smoking and significantly contributes to the development of lung cancer in this region.
Addressing lung cancer in Asia comes with its own set of challenges. Limited access to healthcare, including primary care facilities and essential diagnostic tools like CT scans, hinders early detection and accurate diagnoses. Inadequate healthcare infrastructure and limited availability of medications further compound the difficulties faced by lung cancer patients.
Despite these challenges, significant advancements in lung cancer treatment have been made in Asia. Early detection screening tools, such as low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) combined with artificial intelligence (AI), enable the identification of small lesions in the lungs, leading to early diagnosis and improved treatment outcomes. Targeted therapies for common mutations like EGFR and HER2, as well as antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) combined with immunotherapy, have also revolutionized treatment approaches.
In Vietnam, a country heavily affected by lung cancer, the burden is evident with over 26,000 new cases reported annually. However, advancements in treatment methods and increased lung cancer screening show promise in reducing the impact of the disease. EGFR mutations are prevalent in approximately 50% of early-stage patients in Vietnam, aligning with other Asian countries. This knowledge allows healthcare professionals to personalize treatment using new-generation targeted drugs.
AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health and Bright Future Fund, has taken steps to support lung cancer patients in Vietnam. They have launched an official website, thuongphoi.vn, dedicated to providing information and resources for lung cancer patients. Additionally, AstraZeneca has partnered with several hospitals in Vietnam to implement artificial intelligence (AI) applications for lung X-rays, aiming to improve diagnosis quality.
Moreover, AstraZeneca has been sponsoring EGFR testing programs in Vietnam for nearly a decade, enabling personalized treatment for lung cancer patients at different stages. By focusing not only on providing medication but also on early diagnosis and patient support, AstraZeneca aims to improve the lives of lung cancer patients in Vietnam.
The battle against lung cancer in Asia, including Vietnam, continues, but advancements in early diagnosis and personalized treatment offer hope for patients. Ongoing efforts to improve healthcare access, infrastructure, and awareness will be crucial in reducing the burden of this devastating disease.