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Advocating for focus on

Non-smoking lung cancers

Ruth was a fit and healthy woman who had never smoked, so the diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer came as a terrible shock. Like many, Ruth was unaware of the prevalence of lung cancer in non-smokers.

The reality is that the number of people diagnosed in the UK each year with non-smoking lung cancers is on the rise.  The diagnosis is more common in women – twice that of men, and the under 55s.

Only 1 in 20 of those diagnosed survive over 10 years.

Patient InfoMore Info for GPs

Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer

Non-smoking lung cancers & what you should know about them

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and have never smoked, it will most likely have come as a tremendous shock. Although smoking cigarettes is the biggest cause of lung cancer, never smokers can get lung cancer too.

We hope that the information we have put together offers some insight into potential symptoms of non-smoking lung cancers, provides some basic education for HCPs and empowers patients to understand their diagnosis so that they can ensure they are getting the best possible treatment. Non-smoking lung cancers are not rare. It’s our mission to drive more research into this cancer and advocate for better patient outcomes.

Did you know?

Anyone who has smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime is considered a non-smoker

Alongside our friends at ALK+ UK and EGFR+ UK we are working hard to inform GPs and HCPs on the not-always obvious symptoms of this cancer, with the hope that patients are diagnosed sooner to ensure better treatment options and better outcomes.

More Information

General Information

Ruth’s vision and the RSF mission


Understanding your diagnosis and asking the right questions


Information for GPS & Healthcare Professionals

Research Projects

Supporting Cancer Research UK’s TRACERx

What We’re Doing

“Non-smoking lung cancers can affect anyone at any age. The Ruth Strauss Foundation is focused on the need for more research & collaborative working so that we can better understand how to diagnose, treat and even cure non-smoking related lung cancers.”

Raising awareness of non-smoking lung cancers.

Ruth strongly believed that by sharing knowledge, improvements in patient care and outcomes would be accelerated.

There is very little known about why non-smoking related lung cancers develop and there is a lack of co-ordinated funding to help progress research into causes, triggers and treatments.

We believe that joining up and sharing knowledge about non-smoking related lung cancers globally, including patient experiences, will help make those breakthroughs come sooner.

RSF has supported TracerX, a ground-breaking CRUK-funded lung cancer research programme. TracerX is learning more about why lung cancers develop and how to best treat them, including non-smoking lung cancers.

Our next steps are to facilitate non-smoking lung cancer workshops in the UK, bringing together global experts and researchers in lung cancer, to drive forward a strategy for how the world makes strides into better understanding non-smoking related lung cancers.


new lung cancer cases in the UK every year


of those diagnosed have never smoked

EGFR Positive UK

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ALK Positive UK

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Non-smoking lung cancer

What are the symptoms of lung cancer in non-smokers?

Similar to symptoms in all types of cancer, non-smoking lung cancers can present with:

  • A persistent cough.
  • Repeated chest infection (upper respiratory infections)
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing / shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Blood in coughed up sputum
  • Hoarseness.
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
  • Chest discomfort or pain.

It’s important that even young non-smokers who develop a persistent cough get checked by a doctor. Early testing means early treatment which saves lives. Note that a cough is also a common symptom of COVID-19. It is still important to contact your GP if you have a new or worsening cough. They can speak to you over the phone or by a video call and can arrange for tests if required.

Our People


As part of our research mission, our Scientifc Advisory Group provide guidance and independent advice on matters related to the academic and medical fields of our projects, as well as advice on how to maximise their impact. We held our first Advisory Group meeting in January 2020, and are continuing to meet regularly. We are delighted to have the expertise of the following members of the Scientific Advisory Group, and would like to thank them all for their time and ongoing encouragement and support:

Dr. Martin Forster


Dr Forster is an Associate Professor at University College London (UCL) and Consultant Medical Oncologist at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He specialises in Thoracic and Head and Neck Cancers and has a particular interest in drug development, running a broad portfolio of studies from first-in-human to registration Phase III trials. He runs a research-based practice, being Principal Investigator or Chief Investigator for over 50 early and late-phase clinical trials since his appointment to UCL in 2009. During his Oncology training he completed a PhD in biomarker development at the Institute of Cancer Research and he collaborates broadly with national and international groups involved in translational research. He has published on topics ranging from cancer biology to translational oncology and clinical studies. He is Joint Lead for the Clinical Trials Theme of the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence and co-Lead for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Lung Health Informatics Collaborative programme. He is a past member of the NIHR Lung Clinical Studies Group and the North Thames Clinical Research Network Thoracic Cancer Speciality Lead. In addition, he is the UCH Clinical Lead for Chemotherapy Services and co-lead for the UCLH Cancer Collaboration Chemotherapy Expert Reference Group.

Prof. Sanjay Popat


Professor Sanjay Popat is a Consultant Thoracic Medical Oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital. He qualified from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in 1994, completed general medical training at the Royal Brompton, and the Hammersmith Hospital, and medical oncology training at the Royal Marsden Hospital. In 2002 he was awarded a PhD in molecular genetics, and thereafter undertook a post doctoral Clinician Scientist Fellowship, and subsequently a HEFCE Clinical Senior Lectureship.

He has published in the fields of molecular genetics, therapeutic biomarkers, and medical oncology. He has been awarded nationally and internationally competitive prizes for his research, in addition to 4 research fellowships. His research interests include the development of novel drug strategies for the treatment of thoracic cancers through clinical trials, the identification of DNA variants that influence thoracic cancer development and their impact on clinical behaviour, as well as the identification of biomarkers predictive of therapeutic effect.

He is co-director for the NIHR London South Clinical Research Network (CRN) Cancer Division and Chair of Cancer for the West London Genomic Medicine Centre. He Chairs the British Thoracic Oncology Group (BTOG), and is past Chair of the UK NCRI Lung Cancer Clinical Studies Group (CSG) Advanced Disease Sub-group. He is active in the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Lung Group, the European Thoracic Oncology Platform (ETOP), and the International Thymic Malignancy Interest Group (ITMIG).

Prof. Andrew Nicholson


Prof Nicholson is an expert in thoracic pathology and conducts research into lung cancers, receiving the Mary J Matthews award for lifetime scientific achievement in lung cancer translational research in 2019.

He is referred hundreds of cases each year for diagnosis from clinicians and other pathologists. He is a past chair of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Pathology Committee, as well as a member of the IASLC Staging and Prognostic Factors Committee. He is President Elect of the British Division of the International Academy of Pathologists.

Andrew has co-authored over 400 peer-reviewed publications, co-authored Pathology of the Lung (2011), the AFIP Atlas, Tumors of the Lower Respiratory Tract (2019), and was a Volume Editor of the 2015 WHO classification of lung, pleura, thymus and heart tumours.

Dr. Sandra Strauss

Trustee & Research Advisor

Sandra is a senior clinical lecturer and consultant medical oncologist based at University College London Hospital, with a research appointment at University College London. She specialises in the treatment of patients with rare cancers called sarcomas, which affect people of all ages from young children to adults.

Sandra is involved in clinical and scientific research. In 2009 she won a career development award from Sarcoma Alliance For Research Through Collaboration (SARC) to identify new targets for treatment for sarcoma and led a number of national and international clinical trials that aim to improve outcome for patients with these rare cancers. Sandra is a translational research partner within a european collaboration for patients with Ewing sarcoma and in 2017 was appointed clinical lead for sarcoma and rare cancers for the Public Health England (PHE) National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS). She is also a member of the Sarcoma UK Research Advisory Committee and frequently reviews grant applications for charities.

Reason for being involved

“As Ruth’s sister-in-law I saw at close hand the devastating effects of her diagnosis. Ruth was truly remarkable for her frank and honest approach to dealing with her illness, her ability to make the most of each day she had and her selflessness in preparing those close to her for a future without her. As an oncologist, I understand the unmet need in providing support for young patients with incurable cancer, and the value in working together to accelerate research.

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