Conference Coverage

International group identifies actions to improve lung cancer survival



The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership, a collaboration of physicians, clinicians, researchers, policy makers, and data experts, has reached a consensus on key actions designed to standardize and homogenize lung cancer care that includes early diagnosis and access to care for all patients.

This consensus, reported at the 2022 European Lung Cancer Congress, is an effort to address disparities in care recognized by the group’s in-house research team. The team identified significantly different survival rates in early stage lung cancer patients from a group of countries with similar health care metrics, such as health care expenditure and universal access to health care.

“This group of countries is very comparable, but we saw a 20% difference in survival in localized, stage I and II cancers. When you consider that lung cancer is a bigger killer than any other cancer –more than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined – that’s thousands of people,” said the project’s lead clinician, Christian Finley, MD, a thoracic surgeon with St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (Ont.).

Founded in 2009, the ICBP includes about 500 experts in its core countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada; New Zealand and Ireland have also participated. The goal of the partnership is to benchmark survival and other outcomes in cancer and to research why disparities between countries exist.

“That’s why we keep the membership fairly small, so that we can actually make more meaningful research projects to get into depth in factors beyond benchmarking survival and mortality,” said study author Charlotte Lynch, MSc, a senior researcher with Cancer Research UK in London.

To help narrow the disparity gap, Ms. Lynch, Dr. Finley and colleagues brought together nine key informants from ICBP countries to discuss local clinical insights and best practices, and ultimately came up a list of five recommendations considered most crucial: implementing cost-effective, equitable, and effective screening; ensuring diagnoses of lung cancer within 30 days of referral; developing thoracic centers of excellence; launching an international audit of lung cancer care; and prioritizing the recognition of improvements in lung cancer care and outcomes.

They identified 13 best practice points to support the development and implementation of the calls to action.

“For example, points supporting the screening call to action focus on timely access to cross-sectional imaging and availability and development of patient and health care practitioner lung cancer awareness materials,” Ms. Lynch said.

Another example would be the point that describes the need for a minimum data set to evaluate lung cancer patients’ diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare.

“I think we all work in a very disrupted system right now. Screening programs really took a hit during the pandemic, and I think people coming out of those disruptions are trying to imagine a more effective system using tools like information technologies, mobile clinics and having a better understanding of equity,” Dr. Finley said.

Ms. Lynch said the ICBP intends to use the consensus to generate concrete actions. “We’re thinking about how we can get everyone in the room to share lessons learned and best practices to push things forward rather than saying, ‘this is what should be done,’ making sure we do the next steps, collaborative thinking, and moving forward.”

In a press release, Antonio Passaro, MD, a lung cancer expert from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, said there is a need to prioritize primary and secondary prevention of lung cancer.

“Although a much-debated topic in recent years, a strong body of research has now shown that lung cancer screening through annual computed tomography scans in individuals with a history of smoking can improve detection rates. Targeting the right populations with these interventions will be crucial to implementing screening approaches that are both efficacious and cost effective,” he stated.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest and this study was not funded.

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