publication date: Sep. 4, 2020

NCI: Targeted therapies for NSCLC drove sharp reduction in lung cancer mortality rate

By Matthew Bin Han Ong

Sharp declines in mortality rates for non-small cell lung cancer in recent years are driven primarily by advances in treatment, NCI researchers concluded in a study published Aug. 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The NCI study brings clarity to a debate about the contribution of lung cancer treatments to the rapid decline in overall cancer mortality. In January, the American Cancer Society declared that the latest available data—from 2016 to 2017—show the “largest ever single-year drop in overall cancer mortality of 2.2%.” (The Cancer Letter, Feb. 7, 2020).

While it was clear that the overall drop was driven by a reduction in lung cancer mortality, it wasn’t immediately apparent whether improvements in survival resulting from new drugs were significant enough to be detected.

Overall cancer mortality rates have been falling since 1990 due to a consistent decline in incidence of lung cancer. Is it possible that the sharper decline in recent years is caused by advances in drug treatments? Some experts pondered the impact of targeted therapies and immunotherapies for NSCLC, and whether that signal could be observed in population-level data (The Cancer Letter, Jan. 8, 2020).

There is now sufficient data to elucidate that link, said Nadia Howlader, lead author of the NCI study, and a mathematical statistician in the Data Analytics Branch within the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at NCI.

“For non-small cell [lung cancer], we saw a steady decline in mortality, initially, followed by a rapid decline in 2013 through 2016—primarily explained by dissemination of targeted … Continue reading NCI: Targeted therapies for NSCLC drove sharp reduction in lung cancer mortality rate

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