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Home » Oncology » Breaking new ground: pioneering efforts in lung cancer screening

Alex Wilkes

Country President, AstraZeneca Ireland (Commercial Operations)

Caius Kim

Global Director, Lung Ambition Alliance, AstraZeneca

Research is ongoing to discover, develop and deliver innovative screening solutions to patients with lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in Ireland. As one of the most common forms of cancer, it poses a substantial health challenge which needs continued awareness, early detection and advanced treatment strategies to improve outcomes for those affected by it.1

In Ireland, as in many parts of the world, lung cancer is often accompanied by a significant stigma due to the associated risk factor of smoking. However, up to 20% of cases occur in people who have never smoked.2

Commitment to patients

Alex Wilkes, Country President, AstraZeneca Ireland (Commercial Operations), explains that the company has a bold ambition to eliminate cancer as a cause of death. “As one of Ireland’s leading healthcare companies, we cultivate an unwavering commitment to patients. Together with our colleagues in Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease, we employ more than 1,200 people across two sites in Blanchardstown and Athlone. We are a science-driven, global company, with medicines used by millions of people across the world and thousands of patients in Ireland.”

He continues: “Our priority is on treating the most common types of cancer, at every stage of the disease. But we do focus on some of the most hostile and hard-to-treat cancers finding innovative solutions to types of cancer that typically have the worst outcomes. Lung cancer is a priority for us,” he adds.

Screening for early lung cancer detection

Driving early detection is one of the biggest priorities for the pharmaceutical company. Lung cancer is often diagnosed in its advanced stages,3 by which point treatment options are extremely limited.

According to Caius Kim, Global Director of the Lung Ambition Alliance: “Screening affords the opportunity to find early-stage lung cancer where therapeutics are most beneficial.” Through advancements in technology and cutting-edge AI software, screening programmes are seeing a remarkable improvement in diagnosis and patient outcomes — applications of which are improving the landscape of oncology care. 

Artificial intelligence driving screening efficiency

One of the company’s biggest research centres in Cambridge is collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital where we are assisting in driving study and implementation of AI technology which can see nodules on a CT scan representative of increased lung cancer risk. “These nodules would otherwise not be noticeable to the human eye,” explains Kim.

Collaboration is key to eliminating cancer

Outsmarting cancer requires a collective and collaborative approach. This is why working with local and global healthcare organisations is critical, insists Wilkes.

The Lung Ambition Alliance represents an innovative approach to driving outcomes for lung cancer globally through partnership and collaboration, with involvement from clinicians, patient advocacy groups and professional societies across over 40 countries.

AstraZeneca supports the leading cancer patient groups in Ireland, such as the Irish Cancer Society and the Marie Keating Foundation. It also works alongside the broader healthcare system to identify opportunities and projects that will improve patient pathways and care.

“We employ some of the highest levels of science within the organisation; we have physicians and scientists leading the space in oncology. We want to use this expertise for good,” says Wilkes. “We realise that for us to generate sustainable solutions, it has to be done through partnership. We can’t do it on our own.”

Global impact through cancer innovation

With a large global footprint, the company is well-positioned to break through barriers and discover innovations in cancer care. 

“Our broad pipeline of next-generation medicines is aimed at expanding treatment options and improving outcomes for patients. The goal is to not only improve survival from lung cancer but to potentially eliminate lung cancer as a cause of death,” says Wilkes.


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