Research into living with lung cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Research into living with cancer can make a real difference to people who are diagnosed. People with lung cancer may feel very anxious and Cancer Research UK is investigating whether counselling or other psychological support helps people to cope better. Depression can be a major problem. Researchers are looking at whether sessions with specially trained nurses can help to reduce depression.

Lung cancer can also cause physical problems such as

  • Coughing
  • Muscle loss and weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness and weakness

Researchers are trying to find ways of dealing with all these effects to improve people’s quality of life.

Cancer Research UK supports a lot of this research. You can find out about lung cancer trials on the Cancer Research UK clinical trials database.


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Research to improve the lives of patients

People with lung cancer have to cope with emotional and psychological effects as well as physical effects. So research into living with cancer can make a real difference to people who are diagnosed.

Researchers are trying to find ways of dealing with all these effects to improve people’s quality of life. You can read about the research on this page.

Cancer Research UK supports a lot of the research in the UK.


Research into emotional support

Cancer Research UK is investigating whether counselling or other psychological support helps people to cope with their diagnosis. One research group is specifically investigating the needs of men with cancer.

A research team carried out a trial to find out what patients and health care professionals thought of follow up care after treatment. You can find details of the trial into feelings about follow up service on our clinical trials database.

The period after lung cancer treatment was seen as a very difficult time. People felt very anxious and uncertain. People found the follow up appointments to be very reassuring. For health care professionals, the follow up appointments were seen as a way of making sure that people had help managing symptoms. They were also a time to discuss possible further treatment.

The researchers are now planning to develop a supported self management programme for people with lung cancer. They need to do further research to finalise this. But the programme may include

  • Follow up appointments
  • Information focusing on the issues people face after lung cancer treatments
  • Support for people in monitoring symptoms
  • Support for patients in arranging appointments when they want them

Research into depression and lung cancer

Depression can be a major problem for people with lung cancer. Doctors want to offer more support to people with depression. But at the moment they are unsure of the best way to do this.

The SMaRT Oncology 3 trial found that a special treatment programme, which included support from a specially trained nurse, was helpful for treating depression in people with lung cancer. The trial team suggested that they now need to do larger trials to see how much it would cost to deliver this type of programme. You can read the results of the SMaRT Oncology 3 trial on our website.


Research into reducing cough

Many people with lung cancer have a cough. This can be very distressing and may affect daily life. For example, a cough can make communicating clearly more difficult. It can also cause poor appetite, sleeplessness, vomiting, severe tiredness, pain, anxiety, and fainting. In some people it can even cause loss of control over passing urine. 

The CLiC study found that a cough could be properly assessed using questionnaires and cough recorders. They found that certain factors could predict how bad the cough would be. They also found that how severe a cough was did not depend on factors related to the cancer itself, or on smoking. The researchers hope that this information will help plan future trials looking at treatment for cough in lung cancer patients. You can read a summary of the results of the CLiC study on our clinical trials database.

The CALC trial in Manchester is looking at a drug called aprepitant to see if it helps people who have a cough. Doctors already use aprepitant to control sickness related to chemotherapy, but they think it may also help treat a cough. The researchers are comparing aprepitant with a dummy drug (placebo). This trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results. 


Research into tiredness (fatigue)

Some people with advanced lung cancer have extreme tiredness and exhaustion (fatigue). The tiredness makes it difficult to do anything and can be very upsetting. Researchers are looking at medicines to try to reduce tiredness. A recent trial looked at modafanil but found that it didn't help to reduce tiredness in this situation.


Research into weight loss and muscle loss

Many people with lung cancer have a condition called cachexia (pronounced kak-ek-see-ah) in which they lose weight and muscle strength. The NOURISH trial is looking at whether a supplement powder in combination with a support programme can help to stop cachexia.

The supplement in the nourish trial contains substances that may help to stop weight loss and muscle breakdown. The researchers hope they will also find out why some people with cancer are more at risk of weight loss than others.

There is also a trial looking at a new drug called BYM338 to see if it can help build up muscle and stop weight loss. BYM338 is a drug that blocks an enzyme called myostatin. This enzyme controls muscle growth. By blocking myostatin, muscle is able to grow.

Ghrelin is an appetite regulating hormone found in the stomach lining. Anamorelin is a new drug that mimics this hormone and improves appetite. Two large trials (ROMANA 1 and 2) have recently showed that anamorelin increased both body mass and body weight in people with advanced non small cell lung cancer and cachexia. The increase in body mass suggests an increase in muscle and strength, but this was not proven in these studies. More research is needed to see if these are lasting effects.


Symptoms if cancer has come back

A study is looking at symptoms that could be caused by cancer coming back after treatment. After treatment for cancer of the breast, lung, prostate or bowel, you have follow up appointments with your specialist doctor. But after a few years, if you stay well, these appointments may stop. You are then asked to see your GP if you have any new symptoms or are worried about anything.

Researchers looked back at the medical notes of people who went to their GP with symptoms some time after cancer treatment. They looked at people whose cancer had come back as well as people whose symptoms were caused by something else. The trial has now closed and researchers are analysing the data at the moment. The trial aims to find common symptoms to help doctors spot the signs that cancer may have come back.


More about lung cancer clinical trials

You can find out more about these trials and other lung cancer trials on our clinical trials database. If you want to see all the trials, tick the boxes for closed trials and trial results.

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Updated: 10 November 2014