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31.10.2006 – 09:05

Roche Pharmaceuticals

New Survey Reveals Startling Ignorance About Europe's Number One Cancer Killer - Lung Cancer

    Basel, Switzerland (ots/PRNewswire)

Seventy percent of European patients battling lung cancer had never regarded the disease as a threat prior to learning of their condition, according to results from a new pan-European public and patient survey announced on the eve of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. This ignorance about lung cancer is also indicative of a chronic lack of awareness about the disease. For example, forty percent of the general public surveyed wrongly assume that breast cancer is the most common cancer when in fact, lung cancer is. Furthermore, not only is it the most common form of cancer, it is the single biggest cancer killer in Europe, claiming approximately 342,000 lives each year - that is, 937 deaths every day.[1]

    Importance of early diagnosis

    Early diagnosis is crucial to improving outcomes for lung cancer patients. It is therefore worrying that close to half of lung cancer patients polled admitted their diagnosis was discovered by chance during a visit to the physician for another reason. Localised cancers (i.e., cancer that has not spread to any surrounding tissue) detected at an early stage may be successfully treated using surgery and radiation - up to 70 percent of patients survive for at least five years after diagnosis if treated at this stage, with a proportion of these patients being cured.[2]

    "Lung cancer is often forgotten or simply misunderstood," explains Dr. Jesme Fox, Medical Director of The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and secretary of the Global Lung Cancer Coalition. "If there is one thing that people need to know about lung cancer, it's that early diagnosis saves lives. In particular, high risk groups, such as smokers, need to take action if they think something is wrong. Don't ignore symptoms - see a doctor quickly."

    As symptoms often present late, the majority of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage when the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.[2] Fewer than five percent of advanced lung cancer patients are still alive five years after diagnosis, and most die within six months.[2] Of the lung cancer patients surveyed, 86 percent were being  treated with chemotherapy, with 83 percent enduring debilitating side effects and a compromised quality of life from their treatment. However, recent  treatment advances are fuelling hope amongst patients for a better quality of life. The vast majority of lung cancer patients surveyed expressed a desire for treatment that would improve their general well-being, aid their ability  to continue living normal lives and enable them to spend time with their families.

    Recent advances in lung cancer treatment

    "Treatment options for lung cancer patients have come a long way in the last ten years," says Professor Giuseppe Giaccone, Professor of Oncology and Head of the Department of Medical Oncology at Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam. "A diagnosis of lung cancer does not have to mean the end of optimism. There are nowadays many more treatment options available."

    Although this may be the case, only 14 percent of European lung cancer patients are benefiting from newer treatments, despite the common belief that patients should receive the best option in care.

    Recent advances in the treatment of lung cancer have widened therapeutic options. Two of the newest treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients are Tarceva(R) and Avastin(R). NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 80 percent of all cases.[2] Tarceva, an oral treatment for NSCLC patients who have failed at least one prior chemotherapy regimen, works differently than conventional chemotherapy by specifically targeting tumour cells. It avoids the typical side-effects of chemotherapy. Avastin, an innovative treatment that works by starving the tumour of the blood supply that is critical to its growth and spread, has recently filed for approval in the EU and was approved in combination with chemotherapy (carboplatin plus paclitaxel) in the US for the treatment of previously untreated patients with advanced NSCLC[i] in October this year.

    About the survey

    The survey consisted of two arms: one involving the general public and another involving lung cancer patients only. The survey was conducted online amongst 1,270 members of the general public and 157 lung cancer patients in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. Respondents from the general public were an even spread of genders and ages (all respondents were at least 30 years old) and were screened to ensure they were not suffering from and had never suffered previously from lung cancer. All patients surveyed were currently receiving treatment for their condition.

    Notes to Editors

    Survey highlights

    Low Awareness (results of general public survey)

    - Given the severity of lung cancer, it is surprising to see that 70 % of Europeans are not concerned about developing lung cancer

    - 39% of respondents know of someone who currently suffers or has recently suffered from lung cancer

    - Over a quarter of respondents (26%) have a family member who has ever suffered from lung cancer

    - 81% of respondents do not know the treatment that their family member received for their lung cancer

    - 40 % of Europeans believe breast cancer to be the most prevalent form of cancer, yet in truth lung cancer is Europe's number one cancer killer as well as the most common form of cancer

    Low Awareness (results of patient survey)

    - 50 % of lung cancer patients live with symptoms for up to a month before seeking professional advice. Symptoms include:

    - Shortness of breath and / or wheezing[3]

    - Chronic cough[3] and / or repeated bouts of bronchitis[4]

    - Hoarseness of voice[3]

    - Coughing up blood[5]

    - Weight loss and loss of appetite with no known reason[3]

    - Chest pain[3]

    Current Treatment

    - A majority of the general public are unaware of the severity of a lung cancer diagnosis, with only 42% of respondents agreeing that lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer. In fact, most patients are no longer alive within 12 months of diagnosis due to symptoms which often do not present themselves until the advanced stages of the disease[2].

    - 83 % of lung cancer patients experienced adverse side effects with current treatments

    - Approximately 40 % of those surveyed had reservations about receiving chemotherapy because of the side effects associated with it

    - 61 % of the general public believe that patients should receive the best available treatment

    - Patients with lung cancer are looking for a lung cancer treatment that extend their lives, improves their general well-being and ability to perform daily tasks

    About Tarceva

    Tarceva is a novel therapy for patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after failure of at least one prior chemotherapy regimen. It is an oral tablet taken once a day and has the potential to treat many types of solid tumours. Tarceva has been approved in the European Union since September 2005 and in the US since November 2004. Tarceva works differently to chemotherapy by specifically targeting tumour cells and inhibiting their formation and growth. It is a small molecule that targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway. The epidermal growth factor, also known as HER1, is a key component of this signalling pathway, which plays a key role in the formation and growth of numerous cancers. Tarceva blocks tumour cell growth by inhibiting the activity of a specific enzyme, tyrosine kinase, which is part of the EGFR inside the cell. This prevents continued cell growth. Tarceva is the only EGFR-inhibitor to have demonstrated a survival benefit in lung cancer. Currently most people with lung cancer are treated with chemotherapy which can be very debilitating due to its toxic nature. Tarceva works differently to chemotherapy by specifically targeting tumour cells, so avoiding the typical side-effects of chemotherapy.

    About Avastin

    Avastin(R) (bevacizumab) is the first monoclonal antibody in a first-line setting to be shown to prolong the life of patients with advanced NSCLC. Avastin targets angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels within and around a tumour, starving the tumour of the blood supply that is critical to its growth and spread throughout the body.

    Avastin was approved in the EU in January 2005 and in the US in February 2004 for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer in combination with intravenous 5-FU-based chemotherapy. It received another approval in the US in June 2006 as a second-line treatment for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer in combination with intravenous 5-FU-based chemotherapy. Avastin received approval in the United States for the treatment of previously untreated, non-squamous NSCLC in October 2006, and a dossier for the approval of Avastin in metastatic NSCLC with histology other than predominant squamous cell was submitted to the European authorities in August this year.

    About Roche

    Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is one of the world's leading research-focused healthcare groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. As a supplier of innovative products and services for the early detection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, the Group contributes on a broad range of fronts to improving people's health and quality of life. Roche is a world leader in diagnostics, the leading supplier of medicines for cancer and transplantation and a market leader in virology. In 2005 sales by the Pharmaceuticals Division totalled 27.3 billion Swiss francs, and the Diagnostics Division posted sales of 8.2 billion Swiss francs. Roche employs roughly 70,000 people in 150 countries and has R&D agreements and strategic alliances with numerous partners, including majority ownership interests in Genentech and Chugai. Additional information about the Roche Group is available on the Internet (

    Additional information

    - Lung Cancer:

    - Roche in Oncology:

    - Roche Health Kiosk, Cancer:

    - Avastin:

    - Tarceva :


    [i] Unresectable locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

    1. Boyle P and Ferlay J. Cancer incidence and mortality in Europe, 2004. Annal Oncol:16;481-488, 2005

    2. Wilking N and Jonsson B. A Pan-European comparison regarding patient access to cancer drugs. Karolinska Institute in collaboration with Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden, 2005

    3. Stewart BW and Kleihues P. World Cancer Report. IARC Press, Lyon, pp.183-87, 2003

    4. Al-Wadei HA, Takahasi T, Schuller HM. PKA-dependent growth stimulation of cells derived from human pulmonary adenocarcinoma and small airway epithelium by dexamethasone. European Journal of Cancer 41(17):2745-53. Nov, 2005

    5. Hamilton W, Peters TJ, Round A, Sharp D. What are the clinical features of lung cancer before the diagnosis is made? A population based case-control study. Thorax, 2005

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