Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality across the globe, claiming more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancers—combined.
Today, at the 2018 BIO International Convention, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Boston University announced a five-year alliance aimed at fundamentally changing the way lung cancer is detected and treated—with the hope of changing those grim statistics.
As part of the new alliance, Johnson & Johnson Innovation will fund a Lung Cancer Center at Boston University Medical Center that will be helmed by , Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Bioinformatics, Boston University, and Global Head, Lung Cancer Initiative, Johnson & Johnson.
"We're Looking for the Cholesterol of Lung Cancer"
For Dr. Spira, helping to someday find a way to potentially eradicate lung cancer is fueled by both professional and personal reasons.
“Early on in my career as a pulmonary doctor, I delivered a lung cancer diagnosis to many patients—and it was almost always at a late stage, when there was very little I could do to change the course of the disease,” he says. “A family member of mine also died of lung cancer at a young age. She was a healthy, vibrant woman in her 40s who had never smoked. She died within six months of being diagnosed, which is all too common.”
We’re looking for the cholesterol of lung cancer. The way high cholesterol is to a heart attack, we want to find out: What is the marker for lung cancer that will tip us off earlier so we can stop the disease from developing?Share
Spurred by these experiences, along with the fact that lung cancer’s five-year survival rate is only 17.8% (lower than any other common cancer), Dr. Spira and his team plan to spend the next five years developing strategies to detect the disease at the earliest stage possible—and even identifying how best to prevent it altogether.
“We’re looking for the cholesterol of lung cancer,” Dr. Spira says. “The way high cholesterol is to a heart attack, we want to find out: What is the marker for lung cancer that will tip us off earlier so we can work to stop the disease from developing?”
It’s a tall order, but Dr. Spira believes this new alliance can help bring his team’s goals within reach.
“Boston University has a strong foundation in academic discovery studies,” he says. “Partnering with Johnson & Johnson Innovation facilitates the ability to translate those discoveries into products that have the potential to help patients. That’s the strength of the alliance.”