Innovations for Thai Lung Cancer Patients 2020 launch “LungAndMe”

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Innovations for Thai Lung Cancer Patients 2020: evolving treatments for lung cancer
Bringing greater convenience to patients with the launch of “LungAndMe”

Every November marks the annual Lung Cancer Awareness Month, where countries around the world, including Thailand, unite to create awareness and fight against the disease that has the highest incidence rate in the country. Every hour there are 2.7 new lung cancer cases or 23,957 cases annually[1]. It also has the second-highest mortality rate amongst all types of cancers in Thailand, killing 2.4 people hourly or 21,371 people annually[2]. In addition, it is found that the majority of Thai lung cancer patients approximately 70% are diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer or metastatic stage with the five-year survival rate evidently less than 5%. On this occasion, the Thai Lung Cancer Group (TLCG) has organized the “Innovations for Thai Lung Cancer Patients 2020” event to raise awareness and provide the public with a better understanding of lung cancer, in terms of disease severity, risk factors, medical advancements that play a significant role in unveiling the heterogeneity of lung cancer, as well as new treatment options which increase the overall survival rate and improve the quality of lives for lung cancer patients. The event also featured the launch of “LungAndMe,” an online platform which serves as a digital assistant to improve understanding of the disease, treatments, and self-care regimen in lung cancer patients and caregivers and ensure a more convenient and faster access to accurate and reliable medical advice from specialized doctors. The platform is available on various online channels, including the website www.LungAndMe.com, Facebook.com/LungAndMe, Line: @LungAndMe, and YouTube: LungAndMe.

Assoc. Prof. Virote Sriuranpong, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of the Thai Lung Cancer Group revealed, “Lung cancer is considered a major public health problem in Thailand. Not only that the deadly disease has the highest incidence rate, but the survival rate is also low because most cases are diagnosed in metastatic stage. Additionally, the fact that lung cancer exhibits a number of symptoms highly similar to those of COVID-19 infection and tuberculosis, such as chronic cough and shortness of breath, makes it complicated to distinguish them from one another. Therefore, thorough diagnosis and careful discretion are crucial to bring about effective treatment option to prolong patients’ lives.”

One of the leading causes of lung cancer is cigarette smoking, both active smoking and second-hand smoke. The higher risk correlates with the amount and the duration of daily cigarette consumption. Studies found that smoking 35 rolled cigarettes a day increases the risk of lung cancer by 50 times. Piyada Sitthideatphaiboon, M.D. said, “The well-established external factors that lead to lung cancer include toxins, air pollutants and asbestos which is widely used in the automotive industry or as an insulator. An increased risk of lung cancer is also associated with nickel, chromium and hazardous ultra-fine PM2.5 dust particles. Age and family history play a critical role in assessing the risk of inherited lung cancer too. Another potential cause of lung cancer is gene mutations, which can indiscriminately attack younger individuals who neither have exposed to smoke at all nor have hereditary from parents. In other words, there are several risk factors that lead to lung cancer development, and the disease is likely to be found even in those without any risk factors.”

Nowadays, innovations and medical advancements play a vital role in understanding a heterogeneity of lung cancer. “There are two broad subtypes of lung cancer which are small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), responsible for 10-15% of cases, and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), accounting for 80-85% of cases[3]. Those who have no family history or risky behaviors are likely to be diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. The Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) is the most common type of gene mutation found in lung cancer patients, as 50% of non-smoking Asian are diagnosed with the EGFR type[4],” explained Kunlatida Maneenil, M.D. Thus, advanced technology to treat cancer is the key to more accurate data of gene mutations which helps doctors choose the most efficient cancer treatment plan for each individual patient, or known as ‘Personalized Treatment.’

In order to increase the survival rate of lung cancer patients and improve their quality of lives, Assoc. Prof. Thanyanan Reungwetwattana, M.D. said, “At present, doctors and healthcare professionals have more cancer treatment options, including targeted therapy that targets specific cancer cells based on the patients’ genetic mutations, and immunotherapy that boosts patients’ own immune system to fight against cancer cells. In terms of side effects, targeted therapy and immunotherapy have shown less severe side effects when compared to chemotherapy. Thereby, the immune system works more effectively, resulting in a 41% reduction in mortality compared to chemotherapy[5]. Furthermore, immunotherapy can help patients avoid distressing side effects such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and the risk of infections.”

“Now the immunotherapy combination, which integrates immunotherapy with chemotherapy and / or anti-angiogenesis, became available. Not only is the most recent treatment option proven to improve and prolong the response rate to the drug, but it also increases patients’ the survival rate and improves their wellbeing in the long run. The immunotherapy combination is a recommended option for the first-line metastatic non-small cells lung cancer patients without any gene mutation and for patients with a gene mutation previously treated with the targeted therapy. However, it requires thorough diagnosis and careful discretion in regard to cancer staging, i.e. progression, location and tumor size, each patient’s physical state, as well as reimbursement schemes.”

It is obvious that lung cancer is such a serious health threat that many Thais are currently facing. In order to help lung cancer patients and caregivers gain a quick access to accurate and reliable information from doctors specializing in lung cancer, the Thai Lung Cancer Group (TLCG) joins hands with Roche Thailand Ltd. to develop and launch “LungAndMe”, a digital assistant which is available on several online channels, including website: www.LungAndMe.com, social media: Facebook.com/LungAndMe, Line application: @LungAndMe and YouTube: LungAndMe. “When visiting the platform “LungAndMe”, patients and caregivers can find insights from specialized doctors, inspirational patient stories, as well as guidelines on how to live well with the disease. The platform is also equipped with interesting features to help users locate the nearest hospital, keep personal medical records and track their symptoms electronically. Moreover, for the peace of mind, users are encouraged to leave any inquiries related to lung cancer for further medical advice. These essential supports help patients enhance resilience and relieve distress,” Asst. Prof. Lt. Col. Naiyarat Prasongsook, M.D. stressed.

[1] Thailand Globocan 2018

[2] Thailand Globocan 2018

[3] What Is Lung Cancer? | Types of Lung Cancer. Cancer.org. (2020). Retrieved 29 September 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/what-is.html.

[4] Journal of Thoracic Oncology, 2014, (9: 9, 70-71).

[5] FDA Approves Tecentriq Immunotherapy For Certain Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers. (2020). Retrieved 30 September 2020, from https://www.curetoday.com/view/fda-approves-tecentriq-immunotherapy-for-certain-nonsmall-cell-lung-cancers