New Year's Message from the President

A new year and a new decade are upon us, but as we enter the 20s lung cancer remains the most common and deadly cancer in Canada. We have seen so much progress though over the past 10 years, and new innovations are coming all the time, so I am more hopeful for the future than I have been at any time in my career.

Ten years ago targeted treatments in lung cancer were just emerging, and now science has shown us multiple new targets and treatments that promise better outcomes for many. Ten years ago immunotherapy was but an unrealistic dream, and yet now in every clinic I am prescribing these drugs and seeing patients live years longer than we ever imagined.

Of course there is much work to be done, and the most obvious of these is the implementation of lung cancer screening. Currently three-quarters of lung cancer patients are diagnosed with the disease already at stage 3 or 4, with only a small likelihood of long term survival. Yet with screening we can anticipate three-quarters now being diagnosed at stage 1 or 2, where surgery or modern radiotherapy gives a high chance of cure. At Lung Cancer Canada we are pushing hard, Federally and in all Provinces and Territories, for implementation of screening for all who qualify, and we are working with groups such as the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network to try and get this done as soon as possible. There is limited access to screening in some provinces, but this is not yet the comprehensive program that it clearly should be.

Access to modern therapies is always a challenge, and we work with the regulatory bodies and approval agencies to fight for public reimbursement of all of these new and effective drugs. There is no doubt this is a challenge, and in 2019 we certainly saw mixed results in getting access to some important options for patients. Looking forward, 2020 promises to be a challenge too, as many of these approval processes are changing in their structure and approach, and we are yet to see whether these changes will be positive and negative. Thanks to Dr. Rosalyn Juergens and members of the Medical Advisory Committee for their dedication to this task. Lung Cancer Canada remains committed to working for access, and we also support National Pharmacare, which if implemented we hope will reduce the many disparities we see across the country.

Our programs continue to support patients across the country. In the last 12-18 months we have started to significantly increase local educational events, or 'patient summits'. We have run events in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary and Ottawa, with more to come in Montreal and Halifax. If you would like an event in your area, please contact our office and we will try to facilitate that. We continue to distribute thousands of copies of the Lung Cancer Canada Patient Guide, and annual Faces of Lung Cancer Report. Our 'Lung Cancer Voices' podcast was new in 2019 and continues to grow. Our 'Peer-to-Peer' program continues, and there are some support groups up and running in different parts of the country, and we would love to support the formation of more of these.

Our supporters from across the country continue to amaze me with their dedication and creativity. From Painting and Casino Nights (Kayla’s Fight Club) to Golf tournaments, Bowling events, a Mardi Gras Gala, to the Convoy of Hope and numerous Charity Runs, the engagement and awareness for what we do is inspiring.
Our research output, while not our primary mission, is also increasing. We have more grants to give out than ever before, so now a dedicated group led by Dr. Zhaolin Xu is leading this work. In 2019 we awarded the first grant from the 'Geoff Ogram Memorial Research Fund', to a research group in Vancouver, led by Dr. Renelle Myers, who are studying the chemical make up of exhaled breath to try and detect lung cancer early.

In 2019 we made progress in re-establishing a nursing network with the help of Lynn Kachuik and Jennifer Smylie, and hope to see this group grow in 2020, in part through collaboration with the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology. Nurses are in the front line in providing care for lung cancer patients, so it only makes sense for us to have a vibrant nursing network.

Lung Cancer Canada is also helping to coordinate development of lung cancer registries, whereby we can develop 'real world evidence' to support and advocate and advance research and access to treatments. A special thanks to Drs. Geoffrey Liu, Sara Kuruvilla, Parneet Cheema, Cheryl Ho, David Dawe, Stephanie Snow and Gwyn Bebb (among others) for their commitment to this.

We launched the #IDESERVETOLIVE campaign during Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which has proven to be both impactful and motivational, throughout the country. We will be partnering with the Lung Association – Ontario to launch an anti-stigma campaign in February of 2020. 

Internally, with our new Governance structure we welcome two new Vice-Presidents, Maria Amaral in Toronto and Dr. Stephanie Snow in Halifax. We also added Dr. Natasha Leighl to our list of Honourary Board Members. We are thrilled with the establishment of many new committees and the Patient and Caregiver Advisory Council. We are indebted to our staff in the main office and it is this collaboration which allows all of the volunteers to flourish, and for our energy and passion to support lung cancer to be implemented.

So thank you for supporting Lung Cancer Canada, which in turn supports the nearly 30,000 patients diagnosed each year. Please continue to support us, with your time, your energy, your finances and your ideas. We would all dearly like to see lung cancer cured in most, and become a chronic (but not fatal) disease in others. A long way to go, but there is hope!
Paul Wheatley-Price
President of Lung Cancer Canada
2 January 2020

Paul Wheatley-Price MD
President of Lung Cancer Canada