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China’s Airpocalypse Paves a Path for New Cancer Medicines

  • Chinese companies see huge demand for lung cancer treatments
  • At least 60 cities have issued air pollution alerts in 2017
Beijing shrouded in smog on Jan. 4.

Beijing shrouded in smog on Jan. 4.

Photographer: VCG via Getty Images

The thick haze of pollution blanketing northern China this winter is a grim reminder of the nation’s new growth industry: lung cancer drugs.

China logged more than 700,000 new cases of the disease in 2015, the product of a surge in air pollution, high smoking rates and unhealthy lifestyles as China has prospered in recent decades. Lung cancer is now the most common type of cancer in the country and its spread has spawned new listings as well as billion-dollar market values for Chinese companies like Betta Pharmaceuticals Co. and Hutchison China MediTech Ltd., which are attempting to build blockbuster treatments.