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Our lung cancer research

Lung cancer can affect anyone and current treatments are not effective for the majority of people. That's why it's important we fund research that looks into ways to improve treatment and the outlook for people living with lung cancer.

Lung cancer in numbers

29 blue silhouettes

people live with diagnosed lung cancer

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lungs blue outline infographic

people are told they have lung cancer each year

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£ 2,099,043

total spend on all projects

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On this page:

Aim of our lung cancer research

Lung cancer kills more people each year in the UK than any other cancer type. Our lung cancer research has helped us to understand the mutations that drive the disease and has taken us closer to better treatments and care for people who live with this condition.

Breakthroughs in other cancer types are helping researchers make leaps and bounds in the fight against lung cancer. Our support for lung cancer research is moving us towards a better understanding of this disease and importantly, towards more effective treatments for lung cancer.

Lung cancer projects

Here are some of the projects we have funded into lung cancer research:

Can we improve treatment for cancer patients with built-up fluid in the chest?

Professor Rahman’s study from the University of Oxford looked into the treatment of pleural effusions (fluid collecting between the lung and the chest wall). Pleural effusions are common in people with lung cancer and mesothelioma. The accumulated fluid puts pressure on the lung and compresses it, causing disabling breathlessness that requires painful procedures to drain the fluid. Standard care includes attaching or 'sticking' the lung to the chest wall (a process known as 'pleurodesis') which is painful and only works in around 2/3rds of people.

Professor Najib Rahman

Professor Najib Rahman and his team looked at a potential new way of treating pleural effusions where a permanent drain tube was inserted into the chest so that people (or their carers) could drain the fluid at home whenever they felt breathless.

The results showed that this new approach was as good at relieving breathlessness as pleurodesis. This means that people now have 2 options for the treatment of pleural effusion and the best treatment can be chosen to suit the needs of an individual.

Can exercise help people with advanced lung cancer before and during chemotherapy?

Patients with advanced lung cancer can experience symptoms and side effects from both the cancer itself and from treatment (chemotherapy). These side effects impact on quality of life and can include tiredness and lack of energy or appetite. Research has shown that chemotherapy has a detrimental effect on physical fitness, and exercise training can reverse this effect. However, it would be better if this impact could be prevented in the first place.

Professor Mike Grocott at the University of Southampton is looking to understand how chemotherapy has this effect on physical fitness, and investigate whether exercise training undertaken during a course of chemotherapy can prevent it. He’ll be comparing physical fitness in people who take supervised exercise with people who don’t, during chemotherapy for 9-12 weeks.

If the results are positive, this could mean that exercise becomes part of the standard treatment plan for people with lung cancer who have chemotherapy, helping to improve quality of life.

One of the benefits of exercise for people with cancer may be better wellbeing and improved appetite. Our ambition is to be able to refine the effectiveness of an exercise regime for people with cancer by matching it to the right diet. Professor Mike Grocott

Using ‘personalised’ radiotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer

About 85% of lung cancers diagnosed in the UK are of the sub-type known as 'non-small cell carcinomas'. Approximately 34,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Previous research has looked into ways of treating this type of lung cancer by using radiotherapy. However the disease will come back in the majority of people and this approach can result in large amount of damage to healthy tissue.

Professor Faivre-Finn’s research looked at a technique called ‘intensity modulated radiotherapy’ (IMRT), which allows the delivery of a higher dose of radiation to the cancer with the hope that more patients will be successfully treated. IMRT also tries to minimise the amount of damage done to healthy tissue due to its ability to shape the area of radiotherapy very closely.

This study has finished and the patients are now being followed up for a further 5 years. This will help to determine the long term effect of IMRT in treating non-small cell lung cancer.  This research could pave the way for a new and more successful way to treat non-small cell lung cancer without causing as much damage to healthy tissues in the future.

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