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November 22, 2022

Lung cancer screening and treatment innovations

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer – other than skin cancer, it is second only to prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women. The lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is 1 in 15 for men and 1 in 17 for women.1 Despite prostate and breast cancer being more common, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with over 130,000 deaths anticipated for 2022 – more than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.1

While lung cancer isn’t entirely preventable, there are ways to reduce risk. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer and is thought to be responsible for approximately 80%2 of deaths from lung cancer, so avoiding tobacco smoke – including secondhand – can significantly reduce a person’s chance of developing it. Avoiding cancer-causing agents like asbestos, arsenic, radon, and diesel exhaust can also reduce risk.

In addition to reducing risk factors, screening for lung cancer in asymptomatic patients who are current or former smokers can be instrumental in early detection and improving outcomes. Currently, there are several types of lung cancer screening,3 including:

  • Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), which uses an X-ray machine to scan the body in a spiral path using a low dose of radiation to survey the lungs
  • Chest X-ray
  • Sputum cytology, in which sputum is examined under a microscope
  • Additional screening tests are being studied in clinical trials

Screening with LDCT can be particularly effective in detecting lung cancer early in heavy smokers and decreasing their risk of death. A study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of over 50,000 asymptomatic current or former heavy smokers demonstrated those who received an LDCT scan once a year for 3 years were at a 15-20% lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest X-rays.4

Lung cancer screening is critical for high-risk patients, as it helps “catch the disease early when it’s most likely to be manageable,says Dr. Julia Rotow, Clinical Director of Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an AccessHope foundational partner.


Other key tools in the fight against lung cancer include advances in treatments. In particular, there are growing innovations in immunotherapies, which mobilize the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells either without or in conjunction with chemotherapy, as well as personalized therapies for patients with defined molecular targets. Dr. Jack West, AccessHope Vice President of Network and Strategy and Associate Professor at City of Hope, says of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, these kinds of treatments “can respond with great shrinkage and have this benefit last for potentially years at a time.”


The 2022 Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer5 indicates that rates of new cases of and deaths from lung cancer continue to decrease, with the mortality rate decreasing more than twice as fast as the incidence of new cases. These statistics reflect the decreasing smoking rates in the United States, as well as the development of new treatments and expanded access to screenings and treatments.

How AccessHope Helps

As people continue to live through the pandemic, access to remote expertise – especially for immunocompromised patients – remains a crucial component of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

AccessHope offers an employee benefit of cancer support services to eligible employees with cancer diagnoses, remotely connecting the employee’s local treating oncologist to NCI-level subspecialists for case review and collaboration. The subspecialists can provide expertise tailored to the employee’s particular diagnosis, including recommendations on leading edge treatments, latest research findings, and information about clinical trials to optimize treatment.

A peer-reviewed study, conducted between April 2019 and November 2020 and first published online in December 2021 in JCO Oncology Practice, validated AccessHope’s model of remote, collaborative cancer expertise delivery, in an examination of 110 case reviews of patients with lung cancer.

In 93% of cases reviewed, subspecialists from AccessHope’s NCI foundational partners made recommendations to improve efficacy, reduce treatment toxicity, and enhance care. Of these cases, 28% recommended significant changes to refine treatment plan management, and 65% included modest refinements.6

Additionally, many of these recommendations were accompanied by cost savings. In 14 of the cases reviewed, the NCI subspecialist identified low-value interventions and recommended that they be eliminated, which would lead to an average cost savings of nearly $150,000 per patient, or over $19,000 per patient across all cases reviewed.6

Learn more about how you can support your employees with a cancer diagnosis.

Resources:

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References

1 American Cancer Society. Key statistics for lung cancer. www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Revised February 14, 2022. Accessed November 3, 2022.

2 American Cancer Society. Lung cancer risk factors. www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Revised October 1, 2019. Accessed November 3, 2022.

3 American Cancer Society. Lung cancer screening (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/patient/lung-screening-pdq. Revised July 30, 2021. Accessed November 2, 2022.

4 National Lung Cancer Screening Trial Research Team. Reduced lung-cancer mortality with low-dose computed tomographic screening. New England Journal of Medicine. August 4, 2011, 365:395-409. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1102873.

5 American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, and the National Cancer Institute. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. seer.cancer.gov/report_to_nation/. Published October 27, 2022. Retrieved November 2, 2022.

6 West, HJ, et al. Novel program offering remote, asynchronous subspecialist input in thoracic oncology: early experience and insights gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. JCO Oncology Practice, 18(4): e537-e550. doi:10.1200/OP.21.00339.

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