Lantern Pharma Targets Surprising Group For Lung Cancer Screenings

Pharma giant AstraZeneca and startup Lantern Pharma are backing separate efforts to increase lung cancer screenings -- with Lantern targeting a less-obvious group.

According to Lantern CEO Panna Sharma, early screening for non-smokers could save “tens of thousands of lives every year.” He says 25 never-smokers die daily from lung cancer in the U.S., about a quarter of the world’s deaths, “and the vast majority are women.”

Lantern is developing a drug for never-smokerswho get lung cancer, with Sharma also touting a bipartisan U.S. House of Representatives bill that would, among other provisions, require recommendations for a national cancer screening strategy and public education campaign specifically pertaining to women and lung cancer.

The female aspect makes sense since Sharma tells Marketing Daily that of the 130,000-and-growing number of never-smokers who get lung cancer annually in the U.S., some two-thirds are women. They’re also younger than lung cancer victims who are smokers, being “in the prime of their lives, the primary breadwinners in more and more case, single moms, women at the peak of their careers. We’re talking about women who are super-productive.”



Passage of the House bill, he explains could have an impact similar to the initiation of breast cancer screenings in the 1990s, which from 1991 to 2006 alone screened 1.8 million women and “saved over 100,000 plus lives.”

While passage of the House bill – introduced last July and officially dubbed the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act -- should be what Sharma calls a “no-brainer,” the legislation is still sitting before the House.

“Treatment of lung cancer per patient is almost $200,000 to the federal government…more than $2.2 billion a year,” Sharma says. On the other hand, screenings would cost from $300 to $500, or less than $20 million a year, he adds.

In any case, he says, “we need to raise awareness that lung cancer isn’t just a disease for smokers. People are still coming around to the fact that this is a huge population.

First and foremost is gaining FDA approval of the new Lantern Pharma drug, LP-300, which Sharma hopes will happen in the next two to five years.

“We’re trying to convince the FDA that never-smokers isn’t a subset [of lung cancer], but a very different disease.

LP-300 has been on a rapid development track due to Lantern’s use of AI, he says, noting that without AI there probably wouldn’t be any trials going on at all and the drug “would have been shelved.”

Going back to smokers, AstraZeneca, which has several lung cancer drugs either in the market or in trials, is sponsoring “Plus One,” a joint campaign from the Lung Cancer Research Foundation (LCRF) and American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative (ALCSI).

Some 50 ALSCI chapters on college campuses will be mobilized over the next three years to implement the campaign on a grassroots basis. Why the “Plus One” moniker? Rather than ask people in the community if they themselves are eligible for lung cancer screening, as they had been doing, the campus volunteers will now ask, "Do you have a friend or loved one who is eligible for lung cancer screening?"

The two nonprofits say that an estimated 125,070 Americans will die from lung cancer this year and that early detection greatly improves survival rates -- but that fewer of 5% of those eligible for screenings are getting them done.

The major reason? “Low public awareness of lung cancer screening and the difficulty of reaching those individuals who currently qualify.”

And just who qualifies? They number 14.5 million Americans who meet the following criteria: 50 to 80 years of age, have smoked for at least 20 “pack-years” (one year equals smoking one pack daily for one year), and either have not quit smoking or did so within the past 15 years.

Next story loading loading..