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Deadliest Cancer Getting Smaller Chunk of Research Dollars
Date:12/29/2010

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Consider this:

  • Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer in the United States, killing about 157,300 people every year -- more than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  • It is also the nation's second leading cause of death, second only to heart disease.

And yet lung cancer attracts fewer federal research dollars per death than the other leading forms of cancer demise. Doctors have yet to find a reliable method for screening for lung cancer. And new treatments for lung cancer roll out at a snail's pace compared with therapies for other cancers.

So why does the top cancer killer attract so little attention?

Largely because people are perceived to have done this to themselves, garnering little public sympathy, said Kay Cofrancesco, director of advocacy relations for the Lung Cancer Alliance, a national nonprofit group dedicated to lung cancer support and advocacy.

About 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women who die from lung cancer are current or former smokers, according to NIH.

"In demonizing the tobacco companies, we've then demonized the smoker," Cofrancesco said. "So there is that blame-the-victim mentality when it comes to lung cancer patients."

Yet some advances are being made. Clinical trials are being conducted on one potential screening tool for lung cancer, she said. Targeted therapies are being developed based on the genetics of lung cancer.

But clearly more can be done, experts say. Survival rates for lung cancer are dismal compared with other cancers, largely because lung cancer is most often not detected until it has metastasized.

"Some lung cancers have a tendency to spread widely throughout the body," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "By the t
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