Lung Association’s 2013 Lung Cancer Summit Highlights Importance of CT Screening

Summit Brings Together Physicians, Patients, Advocates & Insurers To Discuss the Best Practices & Future of Lung Cancer Detection & Treatment

(October 3, 2013)

On September 24, the American Lung Association of the Northeast hosted its first ever lung cancer summit at the Conference Center at Waltham Woods.   The summit was organized by the American Lung Association of the Northeast in cooperation with its Lung Cancer Summit Planning Committee, comprised of some of the leading practitioners in the fields of lung cancer diagnosis and treatment in the Greater Boston area.  The Summit brought together local physicians, hospital executives, patients, patient advocates, insurers and others who are involved in and committed to improving outcomes for lung cancer patients. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of both men and women, killing more than 150,000 people in the United States each year. The five year survival rate for lung cancer patients is only 15 percent.

“Too many lung cancer patients die soon after diagnosis because the cancer is caught too late,”   said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.  “The results of trials using low-dose CT scans to detect lung cancer early, when it is most treatable, are exciting.  “Broader use of this technology provides us with a vital opportunity to detect lung cancer earlier and provide better treatment and prognosis for lung cancer.  The goal of this summit is to learn from one another and share best practices so we can achieve the very best outcomes for patients and save as many lives as possible.”

While lung cancer deaths can be prevented by CT screening, services in Massachusetts hospitals are still inconsistent and patchy, and insurance coverage hasn’t yet caught up with the weight of evidence.  At the Summit, participants heard about the practical aspects of setting up a lung cancer CT screening program and discussed both how to best reach patients who are candidates for screening and eliminate any barriers to screening.

New guidelines strongly recommend screening high-risk populations with low-dose helical CT scans, based on the decisive findings of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), published in 2011.  The NLST found that lung cancer screening using low-dose CT scans compared to chest X-ray reduced lung cancer deaths among older, heavy smokers by 20 percent. Based on these findings, the American Lung Association recommends lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans for people who meet certain criteria, which include: current or former smokers aged 55 to 74 years with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (that is, an average of a pack a day for 30 years) and with no history of lung cancer.

Presenters at this year’s Summit included Phillip M. Boiselle, MD Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and Attending Radiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was the site’s Principal Investigator for the National Lung Screening Trial. Dr. Boiselle gave an overview of CT scanning and discussed what lies ahead when it comes to using this technology to detect lung cancer. Andrea B. McKee, MD, a Radiation Oncologist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, spoke about Lahey’s experience in operationalizing a screening program.  Lahey Hospital & Medical Center is currently offering LDCT lung screening at absolutely no charge to patients who meet the established high-risk criteria; they’ve been doing so since January 2012.  Brady J. McKee, MD, a Diagnostic Radiologist at Lahey spoke about the financial aspects of screening program in practice.

“It’s clear that now is the time for us to work together to ensure that people in our communities receive the lung screening they deserve,” said Jeff Seyler. “It’s incumbent  upon all of us to fully educate the public about lung cancer, its risks and prevention, and emphasize the importance of careful and thoughtful discussions between patients and their physicians.”

The Lung Cancer Summit was organized with the help of planning committee members, Dr. Phillip Boiselle from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr Anthony Campagna from Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, and Dr Ciaran McNamee from Brigham & Women’s Hospital.  The program was followed by an interactive panel discussion.

The American Lung Association offers numerous resources for those who are facing a lung cancer diagnosis.  The American Lung Association has launched Facing Lung Cancer: Support from Day One, a new web-based resource designed to guide and support those living with lung cancer and their loved ones during every stage of their disease. Additional information about lung cancer screening is available on the Lung Association’s website. Those with questions about lung cancer or lung cancer screening can also call the Lung Association’s free Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

The American Lung Association has been fighting lung cancer for decades by funding research, providing educational programs and advocating for increased funding for lung cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.  The American Lung Association of the Northeast plans to hold an additional Lung Cancer Summit in New York City that will focus on eliminating the stigma of lung cancer and identifying and addressing the needs of lung cancer patients and caregivers. The summit will offer a chance for stakeholders to learn from one another and collaborate on ways to turn the tide on lung cancer and improve patient’s quality of life and survival rates. To find out more about the upcoming Lung Cancer Summit or how to get involved, contact Sarah Phillips, Regional Director of the Lung Association’s Medical & Scientific Branch at sphillips@LungNE.org.