Leading research institutions and hospitals across London today unite to transform the care of lung cancer with plans to invite patients over a population of six million into a pioneering new programme of clinical trials.
The initiative is being backed by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and by England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally C Davies.
The launch of the London Lung Cancer Alliance aims to deliver dramatic benefits for patients in London, nationally and worldwide - through collaboration, coordination and an ambition to give every patient access to a trial suitable for them.
Member organisations plan a programme of research that will ultimately make trials of cutting-edge personalised therapies available to up to 3,000 patients a year newly diagnosed with lung cancer across the capital.
Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK after breast cancer, with 42,000 new cases in 2010. Survival rates in the UK are distressingly low and worse than across much of Europe - less than 10% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.
The Alliance forms a roll call of leading London research institutions and hospitals: Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, King's College London (as part of King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre), Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, St George's Healthcare NHS Trust and Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary, University of London.
Patients with lung cancer across London will be included in the unique research programme, which will cover the entire lung cancer pathway from the identification and screening of those at risk through to end-stage disease. The London Lung Cancer Alliance will also link up with five other cities across the UK.
Researchers will genetically profile tumours and test a panel of targeted therapies - many previously untried in lung cancer - in those with particular molecular defects. They will also develop 'liquid biopsy' blood tests for patients who are too ill to biopsy, or to monitor whether drugs are working and assess for signs of resistance.
Under the plans, all patients within a six-million catchment area in London, along with those in Newcastle, Southampton, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh, will eventually be offered gene testing of their cancers at diagnosis. As many patients as possible will then be offered one of a panel of targeted therapies matched to their cancer's particular molecular defects.
Professor Alan Ashworth , Chair of the London Lung Cancer Alliance and Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "For far too long the prospects for patients with lung cancer have been bleak. But now we have an opportunity to change that as new genetic techniques for studying tumours open up the prospect of trialling novel targeted therapies for lung cancer.
"The London Lung Cancer Alliance has brought together leading organisations across London with the aim of applying state-of-the-art technology to radically shake up the way we treat lung cancer. We believe that this new alliance will genuinely improve the prospects for lung cancer patients."
Dr James Spicer, Reader in Experimental Oncology at King's College London, said: "The explosion in our understanding of lung cancer biology is at last leading to a growing list of experimental treatment options for lung cancer.
"Now we need a new level of organisation and collaboration to introduce these drugs to the clinic as soon as possible, and provide these previously disadvantaged patients with new hope. King's Health Partners is delighted to play a part in making this happen."
Professor Michael Seckl, Head of Molecular Oncology at Imperial College London and an oncology consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "This alliance gives us an outstanding opportunity for our leading scientists to work together across the capital to change the face of lung cancer in the UK, and to translate these discoveries into life saving care for our patients."
Professor Dame Sally C Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: "The launch of this Alliance heralds a brighter future for lung cancer patients across London and more widely and is just the kind of collaborative initiative that we're keen to see National Institute for Health Research infrastructure support. It is only by academia, the NHS and industry working together that we can make real progress against diseases such as lung cancer, where low expectations and poor survival rates have become entrenched."
The Alliance plans to work with pharmaceutical companies to make existing targeted cancer therapies available to be tested in lung cancer for the first time.
Some of these drugs are targeted at molecular defects that may only be present in a small proportion of lung cancers, which is why it is so important to include such large numbers of patients in the trial programme.
And by providing access to a wide range of treatments, it should be possible to match many patients in the trial programme to a potentially effective drug.
The Alliance also plans to focus on screening, early detection and prevention of lung cancer across high-risk groups, including patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).