In 2018, 2.09 million new lung cancer cases and 1.76 million lung cancer-related deaths were recorded globally. In China today, the disease impacts more lives than anywhere else in the world with increasing prevalence and death rates.
At Johnson & Johnson, we launched our Lung Cancer Initiative to address the challenges the disease causes for millions of people around the world. We aim to develop holistic solutions that prevent, intercept and cure lung cancer through our global strengths in consumer products, diagnostics, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
To honor World Lung Cancer Day, we sat down with Jennifer Yang, Ph.D., VP, Head of China Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, to learn more about the impact of lung cancer in China and how Johnson & Johnson plans to tackle it.
Q: Why is combatting lung cancer a priority for Johnson & Johnson?
We recognize lung cancer as a disease area with significant unmet need globally. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, in large part because it is detected and treated too late, with ~70% of cases metastatic at the time of diagnosis. Over 80% of people diagnosed with lung cancer will not survive beyond 5 years – a statistic that has remained virtually unchanged for decades – and costs associated with this disease are substantial.,
China leads all nations in lung cancer incidence and mortality, and this is expected to grow given long-term exposure to air pollution and currently low smoking cessation trends. Low public awareness of the risk factors also adds to the problem.
With the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, we are committed to addressing this major healthcare challenge by raising awareness and delivering transformative solutions that can catch and treat lung cancer earlier, enabling a future vision where there is a world without this devastating disease.
Q: Can you paint a picture of the scale of lung cancer incidences in China?
In China, it is projected that there will be over 1 million new lung cancer cases per annum by 2030. 
There are several environmental factors that contribute to this, smoking and pollution being main factors. There are an estimated 315 million smokers in China that account for 30% of the world’s smoking population, making it the largest consumer of cigarettes. 
Also, a recent government study surveying around 350 urban areas reported 70.7% of them have ‘hazardous levels of air pollution’.  High odds of exposure to asbestos and dust at work are also commonplace in Chinese cities. These factors likely contribute to lung cancer incidence being 1.4 times higher in urban than rural areas. 
In China, we have a huge opportunity to support government initiatives like ‘Healthy China 2030’, which includes a target of reducing the prevalence of smoking to 20% over the next decade,  to aid China in tackling this prominent killer. This is closely aligned to our goals at the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson and Johnson in China as we work together to eradicate lung cancer.
Q: What is your vision for the Lung Cancer Initiative in China?
Our initiative in China aims to adopt a unique local approach to lung cancer with a dedicated local team that leverages global expertise and tailors our work towards Chinese patient needs to make a difference in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese diagnosed with the disease every year. But we can’t achieve this alone. We believe the only way to tackle a challenge with such enormous individual and societal burden is to bring together the unparalleled totality of science, technology, scale and reach of all our sectors and our external ecosystem.
Our initiative has a special focus on prevention and interception, so people are diagnosed and treated when the cancer is still curable. We believe that if all cases are diagnosed in the early stages, survival rates could increase significantly.
China is fast becoming a global leader in healthcare innovation, driven by demands related to a rapidly growing and aging population, changing lifestyles, an increasing burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases and unprecedented regulatory changes. It continues to be a leading hub for artificial intelligence and big data, making it an ideal environment to experiment and implement innovative solutions utilizing these new technologies to improve patient outcomes. Our hope is that any breakthroughs made in China can transform the lives of lung cancer patients around the world.
Q: What is your approach to collaboration?
At Johnson & Johnson, we look to bring together the best minds and the best science wherever they are. We work together with the local life science community to understand the issues unique to China and truly address patients’ needs. Our strategy is to take a local approach to lung cancer, while leveraging our global resources and innovation that transform the collective patient journey to enable earlier interception and improve outcomes. So far, we’ve made significant progress on a number of strategic programs and collaborations.
The Lung Cancer Initiative team in China is developing solutions to assist effective smoking cessation and we are working with local partners on identifying early diagnosis solutions for malignant pulmonary nodules.
We are also collaborating across different sectors at Johnson & Johnson to fully leverage our strengths and resources in an effort to eliminate this disease. We work very closely with the team at Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s Asia Pacific Innovation Center to identify potential collaboration opportunities in the region.
Lung cancer is also a critical focus at our JLABS @ Shanghai. The JLABS is one of the ways we continue to nurture entrepreneurs and start-ups in the region who are dedicated to preventing, intercepting and curing this deadly disease. We are proud to have just announced the three awardees of our Lung Cancer Innovation QuickFire Challenge, the first group of residents to enter the JLABS @ Shanghai. I look forward to working with and mentoring these awardees to help accelerate and improve their technologies for lung cancer solutions.
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