Faces of Lung Cancer Report



According to new research conducted by Lung Cancer Canada, patients wait more than double the time for treatments, compared to their peers in the US

2016 Faces of Lung Cancer Report Highlights
  • Treatment innovation in Canada takes double the amount of time to have a positive impact on patients, than in the United States
  • Canadian women lose more years of potential life from lung cancer than their counterparts in fifty other countries
  • Results from a global study rank Canada ninth for lung cancer research outputs
  • Although the largest killer of all cancer deaths, lung cancer receives a low percentage of research funding compared to breast, colorectal and prostate
Ottawa, ON, November 1, 2016 Launched today, the third annual Faces of Lung Cancer Report inspires a message of hope as Lung Cancer Canada charts a path forward to improve the dire situation for Canadian patients. In 2016, multiple new lung cancer research sources clearly demonstrated the level of progress that still needs to be made in Canada, specifically when it comes to homegrown research, rising rates of the disease in women, and inefficient approval timelines that are causing patients to play a waiting game to live.
“So much progress has been made in Canada and the lung cancer situation has achieved success in many areas, such as screening and awareness of early symptoms, but we’ve reached a major intersection in the path of the disease,” says Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price, Medical Oncologist, and President of Lung Cancer Canada. “Treatment innovation is where we are seeing incredible outcomes with patients and the most hope, but it is taking far too long for new drugs to be approved and made accessible.”
Lung Cancer Canada initiated new research to give an accurate analysis of the speed at which lung cancer drugs are reviewed, approved, and made accessible in Canada. The analysis looked at the eight most recent lung cancer treatments approved by Health Canada and the Federal Drug Association (FDA) in the United States, was used a baseline to represent a milestone of a treatment’s efficacy.
It was a ‘jaw-dropping’ exercise and on average, it took 440 days longer for these eight drugs to be made available to Canadian patients – this is far too long and patients are dying as they wait.  A Fraser Institute report cites the time to review the same cancer drug is 1.5 to 4.5 times longer in Canada.
Approval of a new cancer drug from Health Canada is only the start of a long and inefficient process for approval and access on a provincial level. For the drugs examined in the Fraser report, the timeline for public funding was between 56 – 412 days after receiving marketing approval from Health Canada. Lung Cancer Canada research indicates the time is well over a year.
According to an Innovation Medicine report of 27 drugs that were approved in Canada between 2010 and 2014, only 59 per cent were actually covered in public drug plans across all provinces. Canada’s fractured approval infrastructure ranked Canada 17th from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) who evaluated approval timelines of cancer drugs in 20 countries.
“Whealey-Price adds, “the system was simply not prepared for the speed of drug development and the precision of new biomarker testing techniques. This is where we wanted to be, we are in a position to extend and improve survival rates and it needs to start with a call for a collective discussion and evaluation of the deficiencies that are acting as roadblocks for patients to access these innovations.”
It is known as the ‘invisible cancer’ for good reason and this is true on a global-scale.
Lung Cancer Canada belongs to a global coalition comprised of patient groups from around the world, known as the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC). The GLCC wanted to take a deeper look at how exactly lung cancer compares to other cancers and initiated a study to closely examine the situation with input from over 24 countries, including Canada.
GLCC strongly believes that research is an essential component to drive improvements in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatments. Concerns have been highly publicized around the effort and progress being made in lung cancer research and to assess the situation, the Institute of Cancer Policy (ICP) was engaged. ICP closely evaluated the state of lung cancer research to better understand the types of research activities that are in progress, the leaders of these efforts, and identify areas that need additional research investment.
Twenty-four countries were evaluated and these represent geographies where the majority of lung cancer research is active (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China (People’s Republic of), Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Taiwan, Turkey, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the USA).
A core objective of the analysis was to identify if research outputs have changed over time, as well as the specific area of focus and how close it is to lung cancer patients. Worldwide, the number of papers published on lung cancer has more than doubled from 2,157 papers in 2004 to 4,845 in 2013.  Canada ranked a disappointing ninth out of the 24.
A major achievement in the fight against lung cancer was made when a landmark recommendation for screening was announced. Published in the March issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care released a new guideline recommending annual lung cancer screening in high-risk adults ages 55-74, using the newest screening method, low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening.
A similar task force in the United States issued guidelines for slightly more expansive screening, but nevertheless targeted high-risk individuals. The results from the implementation of these particular guidelines showed a 20 per cent drop in lung cancer mortality through LDCT screening across the United States. Based on the National Lung Screening Trial in the United States, the program could be expected to save more than 1,200 Canadian lives per year.
“There is an immediate shock when you are first diagnosed with cancer, it acts almost like a fog and you typically don’t remember much after your doctor tells you it is lung cancer,” says Ian McAlpine. “My wife was with me from the moment my doctor uttered the words lung cancer and she remained by my side when he told me that I was cancer-free, she gave me hope.”
Women and their connection to lung cancer was another focus area, this year. A recent Canadian Institute for Health information report (CIHI) showed that Canadian women are losing more years of potential life from lung cancer than women in most other peer countries. The report looked at a 50-year period and compared Canadian performance against 17 other countries. The report also showed that, since 1960, Canadian women have continuously moved toward last place and are at risk of having the highest number of Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL) from lung cancer than any other peer country.
These findings add to the evidence that lung cancer is a women’s health issue. Another CIHI report released in 2013 showed that Canada had the third highest female lung cancer death rate out of 33 other peer countries studied. Over the last 30 years, lung cancer incidence has increased in young women while it has decreased in young men (ages 20-44). Lung cancer kills more women than any other cancer, and specifically kills more women than breast cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer and ovarian cancer, combined. The evidence is clear. Canadian women are falling behind in the battle against lung cancer.
“I thought I was protecting my health by not smoking, eating healthy and maintaining an active lifestyle, lung cancer was not even on my radar as a young woman,” says Elizabeth Dessureault a lung cancer survivor in Ottawa, Ontario. “I was pregnant with my first child and quickly recognized my diagnosis was real and I needed to remain hopeful, yet determined to beat my lung cancer.”
Lung cancer patients from coast-to-coast will continue their combined efforts to break down the stigma barriers, facilitate faster diagnosis, and advocate for more timely access to available treatments. The waiting game is not an option that patients are willing to accept – it is time for action now.

Download the 2016 Faces of Lung Cancer Report (En fran├žais)