Serving Those Who Served

Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help improve lung cancer survival rates for veterans
Dec 13, 2017 12:00 PM ET
Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona is the pilot lung screening site.
With the help of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is hoping to wage a war on lung cancer by increasing veterans’ access to lung cancer screenings across the country.

Sponsored by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the project brings together a leading team of lung cancer experts and the VA to develop the VA-Partnership to increase Access to Lung Screening or VA-PALS. The goal is to develop early-detection programs for lung cancer, a malignancy with an 80 percent cure rate when caught early.

The initiative aims to create lung cancer screening programs at 10 VA medical centers throughout the U.S. to increase veterans’ access to lung cancer screenings with innovative technology designed for early detection.

Screenings are underway at a pilot site in Phoenix and additional sites will begin screening in the first half of 2018.

While lung cancer mortality rates are staggeringly high across the general population, veterans are particularly at high risk because of higher smoking rates among soldiers and exposure to other carcinogens from the environmental hazards of war.

“I am so excited about this project and to give back to Veterans because they’ve done so much for this country and they have always been at the highest risk.” Said Claudia Henschke, co-principal investigator and international lung screening expert.

The VA, which boasts the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system, has been heavily involved in lung cancer screening research for veterans. But because of underfunding and a lack of resources, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation saw an opportunity to help patients who are veterans.

“Ultimately, this is a way to help serve those who have served,” said John Damonti, President of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “It’s giving back through creating access to quality screenings that can help the health outcomes of our veterans.”

Drew Moghanaki, principal investigator and director of clinical radiation oncology research at McGuire VA Hospital, says the VA’s centralized health care system makes it the ideal place to host the lung cancer screening program because the patients it serves have access to a multitude of services.

If the program is successful, he explains, the benefit will be two-fold. Not only could the program help improve outcomes for veterans cared for within the VA, but the hope is that the program will also have a broader global impact on the lung cancer community beyond the VA.

“The hope is that this investment with the VA will drive such dramatic stage shifts that we will be able to create a replicable model for lung cancer screening for the rest of the world,” says Moghanaki. ”Failure is not an option.”

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation supports U.S. Veterans through initiatives focused on effective community-based solutions to address the mental health and community reintegration needs of veterans, military service members, their families and families of the fallen. The Foundation is committed to mobilizing communities by developing, implementing and evaluating novel models of community-based care and support for veterans and their families. Learn more here.