The link between smoking and lung cancer, and developments in the prevention, early detection and treatment of lung cancer were highlighted during the latest lecture of the 2014 Academic Health System (AHS) Lecture Series.
Hosted by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), the address was delivered by guest speaker Dr. Gerold Bepler, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University in Detroit, USA.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women, and the major risk factor is smoking. From the 1930s to the 1960s smoking was prevalent in the US, but the effects of smoking on health in general really became known only in the 1960s and since that time, the government has made efforts to reduce smoking, such as public education in schools, banning advertisements and raising cigarette taxes,” Dr. Bepler told his audience.
Dr. Bepler stated that in the Middle East, men are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer because they smoke more, but the trend is also rising among women. “Smoking also includes water-pipes (shisha), which is just as dangerous as cigarettes and also causes lung cancer,” he pointed out.
Another factor that increases the risk for lung cancer, is when non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke in places where people are smoking, he said.
Further risks include chronic obstructive lung disease and age, according to Dr. Bepler, who added that diabetes, particularly when associated with high blood pressure and obesity, compounds the risk for cancers in general.
He stressed the importance of public health policies that promote the health of the population without being too invasive, mentioning diet, exercise and reducing exposure to risks such as smoking as some of the ways to prevent cancer.
“Aside from prevention, the most important thing is the early detection of lung cancer. Data has shown that screening or doing a CT scan every year on people from ages 55 to 80 significantly reduces the risk of people dying from lung cancer. The third arm in efforts against lung cancer is the development of new treatments,” he said.
Dr. Bepler acknowledged that Qatar’s development of a Translational Research Institute is very significant, pointing to the role of translational research in developing new treatments that have benefited lung cancer patients over the last ten years.
“The last ten years have seen the development of a number of novel and revolutionary treatments for lung cancer, many of which are oral drugs that reduce the need for hospitalization. These treatments are based on scientific knowledge about why cancer cells grow and which pathways are activated to make them grow.”
Karmanos Cancer Institute has been responsible for developing some of the world’s most revolutionary treatments, including breakthrough drugs for AIDS therapy and breast cancer, and has one of the best bone marrow transplant programs in the US. The Institute has lately been involved in the development of new imaging technology for the detection of cancers, and will soon start the world’s most advanced proton treatment facility.
The AHS in Qatar is a dynamic network integrating research, education and clinical care to focus on improving patient care and delivering innovative healthcare solutions. The first partnership of its kind in the MENA region and the world’s first nationwide AHS, it consists of eight partners: HMC, Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, Sidra Medical and Research Center, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, the Primary Health Care Corporation, Qatar University and University of Calgary-Qatar.
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