PH lung cancer community removes stigma, gives hope to patients


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The innovation of lung cancer pill called Osimertinib assures to end the growth of disease and improve patient’s survival

Recently, biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca together with the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO), along with local support groups such as the Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCP), and the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) launches LVNG With Lung Cancer, an online resource portal for patients across all stages of the disease to help Filipino patients and their loved to this challenging stage of their lives.

Dr. Donald Ray Josue, Medical Affairs Head of AstraZeneca Philippines, said that patients diagnosed with lung cancer might feel anxious and hopeless that is why utmost support and care is extremely important.

He added that LVNG With advocates helps by creating a community of patients with their loved ones to inspire each other and share relevant information about their treatment. With this, patients may realize that the cure to lung cancer might not yet be discovered, but the illness is very treatable.

Battling with illness and stigma

With 2.09 million incidences and 1.76 million fatalities this year alone according to the GLOBOCAN 2018 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), lung cancer has been considered as the top cancer killer worldwide.

Meanwhile, the majority of lung cancer deaths involve tobacco use, however, non-smokers are also at serious risk.

Dr. Denky Shoji Dela Rosa, a medical oncologist from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center and St. Luke’s Medical Center, said that most of the lung cancer patients get the same question like, “Are you a smoker?”

However, she added that different factors cause the disease and that lack of awareness has been a source of stigma because people often put the blame on the patient that makes it difficult for them to find support and form communities.

According to the 2015 study of the European Respiratory Journal, 25 percent of lung cancer incidences are not linked to smoking, and that the rate of never-smokers diagnosed with the disease has been increasing.

Meanwhile, The American Cancer Society identifies several causes, such as exposure to second-hand smoke, diesel exhaust, asbestos, radioactive radon gas, and chemicals released by burning coal products.

Because of the stigma, new patients diagnosed with lung cancer tend to think that their illness is a hopeless case and leaves them with a sense of isolation that worsens their anxiety over their diagnosis.

LVNG With aims to address these stigmas by dispelling myths that prevent lung cancer patients from seeking proper treatment and seeing hope in their condition. The community also empowers patients with information that enable them to reach out to medical professionals so they can learn more about treatment options.

President of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology and member of Cancer Coalition Philippines Dr. Mary Claire Soliman emphasizes that the standard evidence-based medicine is the way to go in treatment.

She also said that the promise of alternative medicines (natural, herbal or nutraceutical medicine) may be tempting especially with claims that they do not have side effects, however, she added that there is very little evidence to support these claims.

A study by Skyler B Johnson at the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published this January 2018 showed that patients who chose alternative medicines over conventional lung cancer treatment had a more than two-fold increased risk of dying to emphasize that alternative treatments should not replace standard evidence-based medicine.

Innovative, breakthrough treatment

For many years, chemotherapy—or the use of drugs to kill and stunt malignant tumors—is usually thought of as the only treatment for cancer.

Meanwhile, Dr. Maria Luisa Abesamis-Tiambeng of Cardinal Santos Medical Center noted that various options are now available depending on the patient’s diagnosis, preference, and recommendations from the healthcare team.

Some of these includes surgery to remove affected lung tissues, radiation therapy that uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells, and targeted drug therapy.

Targeted drug therapy may be recommended based on biopsy findings. Through biomarker testing, the biopsy can reveal genetic mutations in cancer cells that can be targeted by drugs designed to zero in on those cellular abnormalities.

Therapeutic advances have made targeted drug therapy the standard care for personalized medicine in the fight against certain lung cancers. One breakthrough is Tagrisso (Osimertinib), an oral tablet from a class of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) that target tumors with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations.

Tagrisso (Osimertinib) is a third-generation EGFR TKI that has shown better precision and power at stopping lung cancer growth and improving patient survival. A double-blind FLAURA study shows that Tagrisso delivers 18.9 months of median progression-free survival, nearly twice as long as older drugs that deliver a median of 10.2 months. Tagrisso (Osimertinib) also reduces the risk of lung cancer metastasis on the central nervous system by 52 percent, and lowers the risk of death by 37 percent based on its preliminary data.

Dr. Josue said that the results mentioned have made Tagrisso (Osimertinib) the recommended and preferred first-line treatment by international guidelines for advanced and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer—the most prevalent type of lung cancer—that tested positive for EGFR.

EGFR biomarker testing is available across laboratories and hospitals nationwide including the Chong Hua Hospital, Hi-Precision Diagnostics, Lung Center of the Philippines, Manila HealthTek Inc., National Kidney and Transplant Institute, St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City, and The Medical City.

To know more about LVNG With Lung Cancer visit their website at www.lvngwithphilippines.com or www.lvngph.com.


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Kaye David