Past lung cancer research

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Our milestones

Our scientists have made vital contributions to finding new and better ways to treat, diagnose and prevent lung cancer. Below are a few of our most important discoveries.

1980s – Our researchers make landmark discoveries of some of the faulty genes that cause many lung cancers, EGFR and NRAS. Thanks to this early research, patients are now living longer due to treatments that target these faulty genes.  

2006 – Our scientists shed new light on how some lung cancer cells survive chemotherapy. This research might help reverse drug resistance in lung cancer patients and improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

2017 – Results from the first 100 patients taking part in our ground-breaking study, TRACERx, reveal that the genetic chaos found within tumours can predict some patients' outcomes. And the researchers also showed that a blood test can detect early warning signs that lung cancer is coming back after treatment, which might help doctors stay one step ahead of the disease. 

1950s – Professor Sir Richard Doll publishes work carried out across 20 hospitals that suggests a link between smoking and cancer. He begins a 50-year research project that we support documenting evidence of the impact of smoking on lung cancer risk. 

2004 – A study we support shows that high levels of radon gas in homes increases the risk of developing lung cancer, particulalrly amongst smokers. 

2014 – We launch an ambitious nationwide clinical trial, called the National Lung Matrix trial, to test targeted treatments for lung cancer. The trial is part of our Stratified Medicine program, and aims to speed up progress against lung cancer by testing multiple drugs in multiple groups of patients in a single trial.

2017 – Lung cancer patients can decide with their doctor on the radiotherapy course that’s most suited to them, thanks to our work. Results from the CONVERT clinical trial show that halving the treatment time by giving radiotherapy twice daily is as effective as longer, once-daily courses for patients with a certain type of lung cancer.

1978 – We lead research that reveals there are no 'safe' levels of asbestos, laying the foundations for health and safety policies that protect future generations from exposure to the building material, saving lives from mesothelioma.

1995 – We lead the first clinical trial testing a new treatment for people with mesothelioma, called pemetrexed. Further trials we support show that adding pemetrexed to carboplatin can almost double the life expectancy of patients with this hard-to-treat cancer. This drug has helped extend the lives of hundreds of people diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

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