Leading the Effort to Improve Early Detection of Lung Cancer in Kentucky

Leading the Effort to Improve Early Detection of Lung Cancer in Kentucky

Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Bridging Cancer Care™ initiative collaborates with research universities and Lung Cancer Alliance to improve awareness and survival

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Friday, February 12, 2016 - 10:00am

CAMPAIGN: Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

CONTENT: Article

For the past 18 months, a collaborative effort among Kentucky’s leading research universities, community partners and national organizations has been looking at how the state known for the highest lung cancer burden in the nation can become a leader in prevention and awareness efforts about the disease. And it comes none too soon.

In the U.S., about half of all patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer will die within the first year of diagnosis. After five years, only 16 in 100 will be alive. In Kentucky, the mortality rate is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average. 

The Kentucky LEADS (Lung Cancer. Education. Awareness. Detection. Survivorship.) Collaborative, a first-of-its-kind project to improve lung cancer patient outcomes, is supported through a $7 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Bridging Cancer Care™ initiative. Bridging Cancer Care focuses on pilot projects in select southeastern U.S. states with the highest lung malignance burden and seeks to accelerate implementation of innovative models of lung cancer prevention, detection and education while also helping patients access and navigate cancer care and community-based supportive services.

“The lung cancer burden in Kentucky is substantial and complicated,” says Jamie Studts, PhD, principal investigator for Kentucky LEADS and associate professor, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Department of Behavioral Science. “This project is an effort across several domains – leading research universities, a broad network of engaged community partners and national organizations dedicated to the goal of optimizing lung cancer care and control – to help providers, patients, caregivers and health care programs do the best job possible to achieve better care and increase lung cancer survivorship.” 

The Kentucky LEADS partners – University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and the Lung Cancer Alliance – will implement three different components of the program to help raise lung cancer awareness among patients and providers and emphasize the essential role of high-quality screening in early detection. 

About 30 percent of lung cancer patients in Kentucky are not referred to oncologists by their primary care physicians and more than 30 percent of primary care physicians are unaware of treatment benefits. The first component of the program, improving provider education, will introduce lung cancer screening guidelines to primary care providers, emphasize the importance of high-quality screening and train primary care physicians on how to facilitate shared decision-making about treatment options with their patients. 

Historically, lung cancer has not been highly survivable and because of this, few health care workers deliver psychosocial and supportive care services. The second component of the project, survivorship supportive care services, will develop new critical psychosocial services that address the specific needs of lung cancer patients, and train physicians, lung cancer navigators and mental health providers to deliver these services that promote quality of life and well-being for patients diagnosed with lung cancer, as well as their caregivers, throughout the continuum of the disease. 

Finally, the third component of the project, prevention and early detection, will focus on implementing high-quality lung cancer screening at 10 partner sites.  For the first time ever, lung cancer screening guidelines have recently been approved by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, creating a unique opportunity to implement rigorous, statewide screening programs that can save lives. Often, lung cancer is diagnosed at a late stage, when it is too late to treat, because symptoms emerge after the disease has spread. This component will promote high-quality community-based screening throughout Kentucky as an early detection mechanism that can reduce the number of deaths from the disease.

“When lung cancer is detected and treated early, outcomes can be dramatically different from what we are currently facing,” says John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “Patients diagnosed at Stage 1 have a 57 percent chance of achieving five-year survival. That drops to 4 percent when the diagnosis is at a late stage. Clearly, early detection and diagnosis, combined with education new treatments and patient support are key to increased survival.”