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Health coalition forms National Lung Cancer Roundtable to increase screening, reduce lung cancer deaths

Date Visible: 
03/24/2017 - 9:45am

U-M’s Kazerooni to chair effort to improve early detection of lung cancer, ensure quality care for all stages of the disease

ATLANTA, Georgia – The American Cancer Society and a coalition of leading professional, government and non-governmental organizations are coming together to form the National Lung Cancer Roundtable to accelerate the nation’s efforts to reduce mortality from lung cancer.

Ella KazerooniThe group will focus on ensuring those at high-risk for lung cancer have access to high-quality screening, while also working to ensure patients receive timely, patient-centered, state-of-the-art care for all stages of lung cancer.

Ella Kazerooni, M.D., M.S., professor of radiology at Michigan Medicine, will serve as chair.

“We sit on the precipice of implementing widespread safe, quality and effective lung cancer screening across the United States for the deadliest cancer. I look forward to shaping a future through this collaboration, where a diagnosis of lung cancer is no longer received as a death sentence, but instead when caught early through screening, becomes a treatable and survivable cancer,” Kazerooni says.

“To see this in my lifetime is now achievable,” she adds.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States. The disease killed about 158,000 people in 2016 and accounts for about one in four deaths from all cancers annually.

Lung cancer screening only recently started to become part of mainstream preventive care for current and former smokers. The strategies to reduce lung cancer deaths have traditionally focused solely on reducing tobacco use. Now, with clear evidence from the National Lung Screening Trial that screening with low-dose CT reduces lung cancer deaths, the combination of advances in screening technologies and treatment methods offers the ability to substantially reduce lung cancer death rates. Medicare and most private insurers cover screening.

“This is a unique moment in time when we can dramatically change the standard for how we approach reducing death from lung cancer,” said Richard C. Wender, M.D., chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society.

“It’s no longer just about tobacco control, which remains vitally important. Now, screening also has an essential role to play,” he adds. “Our goal is to reach high-risk individuals and their health care providers to ensure screening is part of their regular health care conversations. Screening is not for everyone, but it must be a priority for those who are at high risk.”

Smoking causes about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths, and those at highest risk of lung cancer are those who have smoked the most. The American Cancer Society and other organizations recommend lung cancer screening for healthy patients beginning at age 55 who have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history, calculated by multiplying the average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person has smoked. 

Medicare will cover screening for adults in good health up to age 77, and private health plans will cover screening up to age 80. Current smokers should also receive smoking cessation counseling.

The National Lung Cancer Roundtable will bring together the key groups that, collectively, have the power to make screening a nationwide priority, have a meaningful impact to increase screening rates among high-risk populations and assure that the highest quality screening is standard across the country. The roundtable will create a common agenda and strategy across all groups. Member organizations will then engage in joint activities as well as work within their own spheres of influences to implement those strategies and bring about change.

Roundtable members include health organizations, such as radiological, surgical, pulmonology and primary care organizations; advocacy groups; corporate entities and health insurers; and federal and state agencies. AstraZeneca is funding the first three years of the project at $1.5 million.

While the roundtable’s primary focus is increasing screening among high-risk populations, it will also work to ensure those who are diagnosed with lung cancer receive timely, patient-centered, state-of-the-art care during all stages of the disease. 

The roundtable will address not only the broad spectrum of issues associated with screening, but also the importance of assuring accurate staging and treatment planning, including molecular testing to better identify appropriate therapies