Lung cancer specialist calls for cash to beat 'Cinderella' disease

November 09, 2004

Lung cancer is a 'Cinderella' disease which does not get adequate research funding, and patients with this disease are disadvantaged, says a University of Edinburgh specialist. In his inaugural lecture today (Tuesday, 9 November), Professor Tariq Sethi claims that because lung cancer patients are perceived to have brought the disease on themselves, more research into the disease is not thought to be necessary. Professor Sethi, who criticises current funding policies as shortsighted, says the situation is made worse as patients with lung cancer are usually older, of a lower social class and have a poor chance of survival.

Professor Sethi comments: "Most lung cancer patients are ex-smokers and even if everyone stopped smoking today, the incidence of lung cancer would remain at the same epidemic levels for at least the next 15 years. It would take a further 15 to 20 years for levels to fall, and the death rate for lung cancer would then still be higher than for leukaemia or ovarian cancers. Research into lung cancer has broad application, not only to other cancers but also to other diseases."

Lung cancer is the commonest fatal malignancy in the developed world, killing more than 40,000 people a year in the United Kingdom. This form of cancer kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined, and is also the leading cancer killer in women, ahead of breast cancer.

"Despite this, lung cancer research is poorly funded compared to other cancers, including breast cancer and leukaemia," says Professor Sethi.

He has spent the past 14 years investigating small cell lung cancer, an aggressive form of the disease, and is currently developing molecules which will trigger suicide in cancer cells.

He says: "My work has also shown that the area of tissue around lung cancer cells produces survivor signals which stop chemotherapy and radiotherapy from effectively killing off the cancer cells. If we can block these survival signals, this will improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, leading to better outlook for prolonged patients' survival. The form of drug resistance which we encounter in lung cancer treatment is widely applicable to a number of other cancers, including cancers of the breast and of the blood."

Professor Sethi's lecture is entitled: Rubor, Calor, Tumor and Dolor. He says: " These four classical signs of inflammation -- redness, heat, swelling and pain --represent the close relationships between cancer and inflammation which have shaped my research. They symbolise the reasons why I came to Edinburgh, linking together my research interests in lung cancer and my work at the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research."

Rubor, Calor, Tumor and Dolor by Professor Tariq Sethi, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004 in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Medical School, Teviot Place at 5.15pm. The lecture is open to the public.
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University of Edinburgh

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