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Research Funding Lags for ‘Major Epidemic of the Next Century’

Research Funding Lags for ‘Major Epidemic of the Next Century’

NEW YORK—Less money is being spent on research for lung cancer than for other common cancers because “people believe that most lung cancer patients are to blame for their disease,” said Betty Layne, director of national planning and policy for the Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support, and Education (ALCASE). The group held a teleconference to draw attention to this issue, to inform the public about the disease, and to say that lung cancer patients, like all cancer patients, deserve the best in prevention, early detection, treatment, and support.

“There are no famous spokespersons, no races for the cure, no movies of the week about people living with lung cancer. Yet lung cancer is still the leading cancer killer,” Ms. Layne said.

She pointed out that there are more deaths from lung cancer in the United States than from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer combined. Lung cancer represents one third of all cancer deaths in the United States as well as the rest of the world. About 171,600 people are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer this year in the United States, and 158,900 are expected to die of the disease. The World Health Organization has labeled lung cancer the “major epidemic of the next century.”

“In the United States, lung cancer receives far less funding than other cancers,” Ms Layne said. In 1998, the NCI spent $810 per lung cancer diagnosis, compared with $1,922 per breast cancer diagnosis. Put another way, the NCI spent $866 per lung cancer death, compared with $7,895 per breast cancer death and $2,283 per prostate cancer death.

“There is a stigma attached to lung cancer,” Ms. Layne said, “a perception that these people smoked and therefore did it to themselves and so are somehow less deserving of our compassion. This is simply not true, especially when you consider that the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer who have never smoked is increasing.”

A Patient’s Story

Diane Glasier, a 57-year-old lung cancer patient, also spoke at the teleconference. Ms. Glasier began smoking when she was 17. “When I began smoking, there weren’t any warnings on the cigarette packages, and the surgeon general hadn’t issued warnings,” she said. “The movies and later television commercials glamorized smoking. I was very young and quite immature, and I thought it made me look older.”

She said she finally managed to stop smoking 9 years ago after many years of trying, but, in 1995, she was diagnosed with non-small-cell lung cancer.

ALCASE is distributing clear acrylic lapel ribbons to broaden public awareness and support for lung cancer patients. “The ribbon is clear to represent the hundreds of thousands of people who are part of the ‘invisible’ population of people diagnosed with lung cancer,” the organization said. See box below for more information on how to contact ALCASE.

ALCASE Hotline

The Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support, and Education (ALCASE) has developed a national lung cancer patient support network and phone buddy program for lung cancer patients and their caregivers. The group’s toll-free hotline is 800-298-2436. The website can be found at www.alcase.org.

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