Research

Information provided by The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung grow and multiply uncontrollable, damaging surrounding tissue and interfering with the normal function of the lung. The cells can spread to other parts of the body. When the disease spreads, it is still called lung cancer.

Smoking is responsible for 87% of all lung cancer cases in the United States. The number of cases of nonsmokers has continued to increase.

The Good News:
Clinical Trial Options – Numerous clinical trials are open for lung cancer patients at M.D. Anderson, including the internationally recognized Biomarker-integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy of Lung Cancer elimination (BATTLE), an innovative study that employs assessments of cancer genes for improving the choice of therapy for specific patients.

BATTLE is part of the overall effort of M.D. Anderson investigators to personalize lung cancer care. The investigators are analyzing tumor biomarkers to determine what makes one person’s tumor different from another’s. With this information, researchers can develop targeted therapies directed by an individual’s molecular and genetic makeup. An impressive array of new targeted agents, many of them oral, are increasing efficacy with fewer side effects often experience with conventional chemotheraphy.

How Rexanna’s Foundation is making an impact: Rexanna’s Foundation supports a comprehensive Thoracic Center database that tracks every lung cancer patient admitted to M. D. Anderson. The database is designed to give researchers a physicians a panoramic, comprehensive view of each patient to help in developing more effective treatments and improving treatment outcomes.

Symptoms
Symptoms of lung cancer vary from person to person and may include:

  • A cough that will not go away and gets worse over time
  • Constant chest pain, or arm and shoulder pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetitie and/or weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Clubbing of fingers

Many of these symptoms are not cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, see your doctor.

Risk Factors
Many factors may influence the development of lung cancer, including:

    • Smoking – This is by far the most important risk factor. Also at higher risk are individuals who smoke cigars and pipes
    • Family history – Research is beginning to show that a family history of lung cancer may be a risk factor.
    • Personal history – A person with a previous lung cancer diagnosis is more likely to develop a second lung cancer
    • Occupational or environmental exposure – People who are routinely eposed to radon or asbestos are at increased risk for developing lung cancer – particularly if they are smokers.
    • Radiation exposure – People who are routinely exposed to radiation from occupational, medical and environmental sources are at increased risk.
    • Industrial exposure – People who are exposed to certain industrial substances like arsenic could be at high risk
    • Air pollution – The byproducts for the combustion of fossil fuels can put people at risk
    • Environmental Tobacco smoke – People who live with or who are routinely around smokers are at a higher risk.
    • Lung diseases – People with lung diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) are a higher risk.

Screening
Cancer screenings are medical tests that are performed when a person has no symptoms. There presently are no effective screening tests to find lung cancer early. X-rays and/or laboratory analysis of the cells in phlegm and fiber optic screening are limited in detecting lung cancer before it spreads. CT scans may be able to detect lung cancer earlier, but their ability to improve long-term survival has not been proven.

For additional information and resources, please visit the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center’s website:
www.mdanderson.org/diseases/Lung