Kentucky gets a $7 million grant to improve survival rates for lung cancer, in which it leads the nation

The University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the Lung Cancer Alliance have joined in a unique project called Kentucky LEADS (Lung Cancer, Education, Awareness, Detection, Survivorship) Collaborative to assess new approaches for identifying lung cancer earlier to improve survival rates.

These efforts are supported through a $7 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Bridging Cancer Care initiative.

Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state and its lung cancer mortality rate is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average. This year alone, 3,500 Kentuckians will die from lung cancer, a UK news release reports.

“As Kentucky leads the nation in lung cancer mortality rates, we must step up to be a leader in finding solutions toward preventing, curing and coping with this destructive disease,” Gov. Steve Beshear said. “I strongly support this collaborative, wide-ranging effort as it coincides with this administration’s KyHealthNow goals of reducing statewide cancer and smoking rates by 10 percent by 2019. By working together, we can and will find a way to diminish the burden of this crisis in Kentucky.”

The project will also develop and evaluate interventions to improve quality of life and survivorship for individuals with lung cancer and their caregivers, the release says.

“Historically there’s not been a lot of research or effort put into lung-cancer survivorship because, unfortunately, there hasn’t been much survivorship,” said Jamie Studts, associate professor of behavioral science at UK and director of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative.

One in two patients diagnosed with lung cancer will die within a year. After five years, only 16 in 100 patients will be alive, UKNow writes.

“Those are sobering statistics,” said John Damonti, president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “The timing of diagnosis is critical. Patients diagnosed at Stage 1 have a 57 percent chance of achieving five-year survival. That drops to 4 percent when patients have a late-stage diagnosis. Early detection and treatment of lung cancer, combined with education and patient support, is key to increased survival for patients living with lung cancer.”

The project will include several components: a review of how physicians treat and refer lung cancer patients across the state; the creation of a sustainable lung cancer-specific survivorship program; and a program that will promote evidence-based prevention and early detection of lung cancer in Kentucky.

Early detection has recently become more attainable because lung cancer screening guidelines have recently changed, allowing Kentucky to implement rigorous, statewide screening programs that can save lives, UKNow writes. And because symptoms of lung cancer usually show up after the disease has spread, early screening is critical to reduce deaths.

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