The Exchange: Collaborating to Change the Trajectory of Lung Cancer

An estimated 2.2 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021i and as the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide, lung cancer is a notoriously complex disease. With many of the symptoms often not appearing until the disease is in an advanced stageii , there is significant need to detect, diagnose and treat the disease in its early stages.

At Johnson & Johnson, we realize lung cancer carries such an enormous individual and societal burden that the only way to tackle it is to unite the unparalleled science, technology and scale across our pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer health sectors. To do this, Johnson & Johnson formed The Lung Cancer Initiative in 2018.

As an R&D engine, the LCI takes a multidisciplinary approach in bringing together the unparalleled expertise, technology, scale and reach across Johnson & Johnson within its Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Consumer Health sectors, and works with collaborators worldwide to advance innovations to create more effective and personalized treatments for lung cancer that will help improve patient outcomes.

To mark this year’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we sat down with Silvia Chen, Head, Lung Cancer Initiative, China, to learn more about how the organization is working to change the trajectory of this complex disease in Asia Pacific through collaboration with the broader innovation ecosystem.

Q: What are the Lung Cancer Initiative’s top priorities for China?

A: We know that lung cancer is notoriously difficult to detect and diagnose. With nearly 1.8 million people around the globe dying of the disease every year, it is the leading cause of cancer deathsiii . Therefore, focusing on early diagnosis is one of our priorities, especially in China.

We have been working closely with our medical device colleagues to introduce innovative robotic-assisted bronchoscopy technology into China. This can improve diagnostic accuracy and also has the potential to enable the delivery of energy or drugs directly into the tumor for local treatment in the future.

According to the China CDC, there are an estimated 318 million smokers in Chinaiv . As smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer, another priority for us is to develop new behavioral science-based approaches to smoking cessation.

Q: Why are these initiatives critical in China?

A: China is essentially “ground zero” for the lung cancer epidemic. The country has the highest global rates of lung cancer and accounts for 40% of global lung cancer mortalitiesv .

While China holds nearly 18% of the world’s population, these rates are expected to continue to grow in part due to high smoking rates, exposure to air pollution and an aging society.

Our goal is to support the local government’s Healthy China 2030 roadmap to increase the overall 5-year survival rate of people with lung cancer in China. If we can target the root causes by raising awareness amongst the general population and advance solutions that look to prevent, intercept and treat this disease, we hope to make lung cancer a disease of the past.

Q: Can you share any examples of recent collaborations led by The Lung Cancer Initiative in China?

A: We work collaboratively with like-minded companies in Asia Pacific and around the globe to make an impact on how we can detect, diagnose and treat lung cancer at its earliest stages today.

In China, we are working on enhancing smoking cessation education and developing digital solutions that promotes this. We continue to collaborate with the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control (CATC) to develop and conduct effective smoking cessation education, digital and consumer solutions and research. We are also collaborating with long-term partner, Zhejiang University and Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate a co-developed digital cognitive behavioral therapy-based application for smoking cessation.

To drive early detection and diagnosis, we have established a multi-year collaboration with China-based AnchorDx Medical to develop noninvasive molecular biomarkers to distinguish malignant from benign pulmonary nodules. This aims to identify people who are incubating lung cancer to treat them before the disease progresses.

As lung cancer has significant societal burden, collaboration is vital if we want to advance innovation that has the potential to intercept the disease before it progresses.

 

Are you working on early-stage solutions to prevent, intercept or treat lung cancer?
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[1] “国际癌症研究机构。Globocan 2020 https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/cancers/15-Lung-fact-sheet.pdf

[2] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/detection.html

[3] 国际癌症研究机构。Globocan 2020. https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/cancers/15-Lung-fact-sheet.pdf.

[4] http://www.chinacdc.cn/jlm/yw/201512/t20151228_123960.html

[5]Cao, Wei等人“改变世界和中国的癌症负担图谱:对2020年全球癌症数据的二次分析” Chinese Medical Journal, vol. 134, no. 7, 5 Apr. 2021, pp. 783–791, journals.lww.com/cmj/Fulltext/2021/04050/Changing_profiles_of_cancer_burden_worldwide_and.5.aspx, 10.1097/CM9.0000000000001474.