Raising the UK lung cancer survival ambition

For the last ten years, lung cancer has consistently been the UK’s biggest cancer killer. 1,2 In 2014 alone, it was the cause of almost 35,900 deaths,3 which is more than breast4 and bowel cancers combined.5 

The UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) was set up in 2005 with the founding ambition to tackle poor lung cancer survival – and specifically to double five-year survival by 2015.  As a result of efforts to improve long-term survival by the UK nations over recent years, estimates now suggest that the UKLCC’s original vision has effectively been met in England6 – with improvements also seen in Scotland,7 Wales8 and Northern Ireland.9 

Yet, despite significant progress being made, it’s vital we do not become complacent. Compared to other major common cancers, lung cancer is still not prioritised as it should be – resulting in wide variations in care10 – and UK five-year survival rates fall severely behind other developed European countries.11 

Consequently, our latest report, 25 by 25: a ten-year strategy to improve lung cancer survival rates, calls for a redoubling of effort by governments and the lung cancer community to improve outcomes for patients even further. As the title suggests, our latest ambition is to increase five-year lung survival rates across the UK to 25 per cent within the next decade. If achieved, from 2025 onwards this will result in at least 4,000 deaths prevented within five years of diagnosis each year – or over UK 11,000 deaths prevented per year overall 

To determine how to meet this goal, the UKLCC sought to explore not just the existing evidence but also the opinions of those who face up to lung cancer every day, launching a number of UK-wide surveys within the lung cancer community, as well as among patients. 

Based on these insights, this report contains a series of UK-wide principles as well as specific set of actions to improve five-year survival rates in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Key recommendations include the establishment of a UK-wide taskforce in line with European best-practice; launching pilot data programmes to assess and address the significant variation in five-year lung cancer survival; a comprehensive audit to improve waiting times; and the introduction of UK-wide screening for all at-risks groups.

We hope very much that the launch of this report helps breathe new energy and enthusiasm into a cancer community which recognises that there is much more work to be done.  A lung cancer diagnosis should not be a death sentence and we hope that governments, policy makers and health professionals in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can support the UKLCC’s ‘25 by 25’ ambition.  

Mr Richard Steyn
Chair of the UKLCC
Consultant Thoracic Surgeon and Associate Medical Director, Surgery, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.  

1. Office of National Statistics, Cancer Incidence and Mortality, 2007-09, March 2012. Accessed September 2016 via: http:// webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov. uk/ons/rel/cancer-unit/cancer-incidenceand-mortality/2007-2009/cancer-incidenceand-mortality–tables-and-charts.xls  

2. Cancer Research UK, Cancer Mortality for Common Cancers. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/mortality/common-cancers-compared#headingZero

3. Cancer Research UK, Lung Cancer Mortality Statistic., Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/healthprofessional/cancer-statistics/statistics-bycancer-type/lung-cancer/mortality

4. Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer Statistics. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/healthprofessional/cancer-statistics/statistics-bycancer-type/breast-cancer 

5. Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Statistics. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/healthprofessional/cancer-statistics/statistics-bycancer-type/bowel-cancer

6. Walters S, Benitez-Majano S, Muller P, et al., ‘Is England closing the international gap in cancer survival?’ Br J cancer, 4 S 2016, doi: 10.1038/bjc.2015.265. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/ bjc2015265a.pdf

7. ISD Scotland, Cancer Statistics. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-topics/cancer/cancer-Statistics/Lung-cancer-and-Mesothelioma/#lung

8. Welsh cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Cancer in Wales 2001 -2014. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk/opendoc/257912 

9. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, Lung, Trachea, Bronchus: Mortality 1993-2013. Accessed September 2016 via: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/cancerInformation/official-statistics/bySite/lungTracheabronchus/ 

10. Royal College of Physicians, National Lung Cancer Audit (2014 audit period), 2015. Accessed September 2016 via: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/file/2280/download?token=IdceLmHa

11. R De Angeli et al, ‘Cancer survival in Europe 1999–2007 by country and age: Results of EUROCARE-5—A population-based study’, Lancet Oncology 2014, 15(1), pp.23-34