NYMC Faculty Publications

Clinical Characteristics and Molecular Profiles of Lung Cancer in Ethiopia

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JTO Clinical and Research Reports

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Second Department

Epidemiology and Community Health


INTRODUCTION: Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for 1.8 million deaths each year. Only 20% of lung cancer cases are reported to occur in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 1.5% of all Ethiopian cancers involved the lung; however, no nationwide cancer registry exists in Ethiopia. Thus, accurate data on clinical history, histopathology, molecular characteristics, and risk factors for lung cancer are not available. The aim of this study was to describe the clinical, radiologic, and pathologic characteristics, including available molecular profiles, for lung cancer at Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital (TASH), the main tertiary referral center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted at TASH among 146 patients with pathologically confirmed primary lung cancer, diagnosed from 2015 to 2019 and recorded in the Addis Ababa Cancer Registry at TASH. Clinical data were extracted from patient medical records, entered into a Research Electronic Data Capture database, and analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences statistical software. Variables collected included sociodemographics, personal exposures, comorbidities, clinical manifestations at presentation, chest imaging results, diagnostic procedures performed, histopathological classification, cancer staging, and type of treatment (if any). A subset of lung biopsies fixed in formalin for 2 to 7 days, which could be retrieved from the files of the Pathology Department of TASH, were reviewed, and molecular analysis was performed using next-generation sequencing to identify the tumor-oncogenic drivers.

RESULTS: Among the 146 patients studied, the mean (SD) age was 54 plus or minus 13 years; 61.6% (n = 90) were male and 25.3% (n = 37) had a history of tobacco use. The most common clinical manifestations included cough (88.4%, n = 129), chest pain (60.3%, n = 88), and dyspnea (53.4%, n = 78). The median duration of any symptoms was 6 months (interquartile range: 3-12 mo). The most common radiologic features were lung mass (84.9%, n = 129) and pleural effusion (52.7%, n = 77). Adenocarcinoma accounted for 35.7% of lung cancers (n = 52) and squamous cell carcinoma 19.2% (n = 28) from those specimens was reported. Among patients on whom staging of lung cancer was documented, 92.2% (n = 95) of the subjects presented at advanced stages (stages III and IV).

CONCLUSIONS: There are marked differences in the presentation, risk factors, and molecular characteristics of lung cancer in Ethiopia as compared with other African and non-African countries. Adenocarcinoma was the most common histologic type of lung cancer detected in our study, similar to findings from other international studies. Nevertheless, compared with high-income countries, lung cancer in Ethiopia presents at a younger age, a later stage, and without considerable personal tobacco use. The relatively higher prevalence of EGFR mutation, from the limited molecular analyses, suggests that factors other than smoking history, such as exposure to biomass fuel, may be a more important risk factor. Country-specific screening guidelines and treatment protocols, in addition to a national tumor registry and greater molecular mutation analyses, are needed to improve prevention and management of lung cancer in Ethiopia.