Every year, around 155,000 Americans lose their lives to lung cancer. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Perhaps you’re wondering what motivated me to share my experiences with lung cancer. Once I had exhausted all the stages of grief, I realized I had two choices: I could surrender and allow myself to keep spiraling down into a deep, dark hole of depression and hopelessness, or I could take positive, proactive steps that could hopefully make a difference for everyone who will suffer and die from this disease.
More Americans die from lung cancer every year than from any other type of cancer. Yet lung cancer research receives a disproportionately low share of federal cancer funding — historically, around 6 – 10%. Why? Because lung cancer has been stigmatized as a “smoker’s disease.” The implication is that lung cancer is self-inflicted, thus “less worthy” of research dollars.
This unfair stigma has had a devastating effect on public awareness, research funding, and ultimately, lung cancer survival. Lung cancer’s overall 5-20% five-year survival rate has barely budged over the past forty years, and that’s a direct result of the lack of research funding.
Here’s the truest statistical reality: If you have lungs, you can develop lung cancer. In fact, around 70% of those who develop lung cancer are never-smokers. Around two thirds of these never smokers who develop lung cancer are women.
Dr. Jennifer Cipriani is one of them. She is living with Stage IV metastatic EGFR-sensitizing non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma. She and her husband, Matthew, founded Project Breathing Hope , a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to help rewrite the future of lung cancer.
Project Breathing Hope imagines a world in which a lung cancer diagnosis is no longer thought of as a death sentence, a world in which the survival rate for lung cancer is approaching 90%, on par with the survival rates of the next three most common cancers (breast, prostate and colon).
Project Breathing Hope imagines a world in which innovative, targeted treatments for lung cancer lead to personalized, precision medicine for every patient: the right patient receives the right medication at the right time.
We believe that it is absolutely possible to turn lung cancer into a chronic, treatable health condition. With the help of like-minded supporters, we hope to dramatically improve lung cancer patients’ survivorship and quality of life through the funding of medical science research. We hope you’ll help us rewrite the future of lung cancer.
LUNG CANCER: VITAL STATS
- How many people? 155,000 Americans lose their lives to lung cancer each year.
- The #1 killer. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S. (second only to heart disease in overall cause of death)
- Research funding needed. Lung cancer receives only $1,831 in federal research funds per death, compared to $4,582 for colorectal cancer and $13,406 for breast cancer.
- Not just a “smokers disease.” Around 70% of lung cancer victims are never-smokers (100 or fewer cigarettes smoked over a lifetime) or reformed smokers (1).
- Women at greater risk. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women, killing more women each year than breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer combined. Two-thirds of never-smokers who develop lung cancer are women.
- Lung cancer currently has only a 5-year overall survival rate of 5-20%, shockingly low compared to the next three most common cancers (breast, prostate and colon), which now have 5-year survival rates approaching 80 – 90%, thanks to research funding.
- Lack of early detection. 41% of patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are not diagnosed until Stage IV.1
EGFR-Positive Lung Cancer
- Around 15% of all lung cancer patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with EGFR-positive (EGFR+) lung cancer, with prevalence among people of Eastern Asian descent much higher, between 35 – 50%.
- Never-smokers. Lung cancers in non-smokers and never-smokers are far more likely to express the EGFR+ mutation.
- Populations at greatest risk. EGFR+ is more common among: never-smokers and non-smokers; women than men; people of East Asian heritage; Caucasians than African Americans; young adults. (Roughly 50% of young adults with lung cancer have EGFR mutations.)
- Lovly, C., L. Horn, W. Pao. 2015. EGFR in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). My Cancer Genome https://www.mycancergenome.org/content/disease/lung-cancer/egfr
- Zhu QG, Zhang SM, Ding XX, He B, Zhang HQ. Driver genes in non-small cell lung cancer: Characteristics, detection methods, and targeted therapies. Oncotarget. 2017;8(34):57680-57692.
* Other sources of statistics include: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute.
It began with this one seemingly benign symptom… In the winter of 2017, I developed a lingering cough that waxed and waned over a period of at least six months. Everyone attributed this mysterious cough to frequent viral infections — after all, I am the mother of two young children. Not that unusual, right?
Simply put: Lung cancer is wholly misunderstood and doesn’t receive the attention and support it deserves. In fact, it’s shocking, the degree to which cancer research funding neglects lung cancer. Lung cancer is the single most lethal cancer, yet it receives the least amount of research dollars from the National Cancer Institute and private cancer research institutions —
The efforts of Project Breathing Hope to advance lung cancer research and save lives depends on the support of people like you. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to get involved in promoting lung cancer awareness and lung cancer research. We hope you’ll join us in creating new opportunities.