Race. Wealth. Gender. Cancer?

The subconscious mind drives 80 to 90 percent of human behavior, so the answer in short is yes. After seeing a study at last year’s ASCO showing that many people with advanced lung cancer never receive cancer care, I began to wonder if specific subconscious perceptions such as stigma, shame and hopelessness had an impact on lung cancer treatment rates.

To determine if such biases existed towards lung cancer, we partnered with researchers from Project Implicit to develop an Implicit Association Test. This test was designed to measure attitudes, stereotypes and other potential hidden feelings about lung cancer compared to breast cancer. With the help of 14 of the leading lung cancer advocates, nearly 1,800 people – including patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals and the general public – completed the test. We’re excited that the results are being presented at this year’s ASCO meeting (abstract #8017).

The results were eye-opening to me personally, as someone who has been in the oncology field and treated patients for more than 15 years. There was significant evidence suggesting a stigma against lung cancer and a strong negative attitude about the disease. And it turns out this finding was consistent across all the different types of participants, including doctors and patients. Although we’ve known for some time that lung cancer is not always caused by smoking, there are clearly biases remaining from this association in most of us – a "mental residue" of sorts.

We will continue to gather data through The Lung Cancer Project to better understand the social psychology around lung cancer and how it impacts cancer care. I encourage you to visit our website or our ASCO booth (10005) to take the test and see what you really think about lung cancer.


Download case study results


Chris Bowden, M.D., is a board certified medical oncologist who has been working in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for more than 15 years. Dr. Bowden entered the pharmaceutical industry in 1997 working in global development for large pharma companies in the U.S., Italy and Belgium, until 2006 when he joined Genentech as Senior Group Medical Director leading clinical development for Avastin in breast and gynecologic malignancies. Dr. Bowden is now Vice President, Global Signaling Franchise Head in the Product Development, Oncology, group. He received his medical degree from Hahnemann University, underwent post-graduate training in the Brown University program (Roger Williams Hospital and the Providence VA) and the National Cancer Institute, Medicine Branch.

MD - Hahnemann University, 1988
Residency - Brown University-Roger Williams Hospital and Providence VA, 1988-1991
Fellowship - National Cancer Institute, 1991-1994
University of Virginia, Department of Internal Medicine - 1994-1997
Janssen Pharmaceutica - 1997-1999
Pharmacia Corp - 1999-2003
Bristol-Myers Squibb 2003-2006
Genentech - 2006

Board certified-Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology