Kentucky LEADS Collaborative Implements Multipronged Approach to Lung Cancer in Kentucky

In the state with the highest incidence and mortality rates of lung cancer, a collaborative project is taking a multipronged approach to address the continuum of the disease, from prevention to screening to survivorship care. The Kentucky LEADS (Lung cancer. Education. Awareness. Detection. Survivorship) Collaborative, a joint effort of the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Lung Cancer Alliance, today announces details of three new statewide programs to reduce the burden of lung cancer in the Commonwealth. The project is the first of its kind to unite an interdisciplinary team of community partners and lung cancer prevention and control experts, creating a unique opportunity for Kentucky to lead in the area of lung cancer survivorship research and programming.

In conjunction with the implementation these programs, Gov. Steve Beshear issued a proclamation declaring November 2015 as Lung Cancer Awareness Month in the state.

The work of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative began in 2014 with a $7 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Bridging Cancer Care initiative. Over the past year, the project team — consisting of scientists, clinicians, advocates and community partners from more than 50 organizations — developed three interventions to improve prevention, early detection, and survivorship care throughout the state.

The need for early diagnosis and improved care is particularly dire in Commonwealth. While lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and kills more Americans than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined, the mortality rate in Kentucky is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average. The disease will take the lives of more than 3,550 Kentuckians this year alone. Timing of diagnosis and prompt treatment is critical: One in two patients diagnosed with lung cancer will die within a year. After five years, only 16 in 100 patients will be alive.

“The lung cancer burden in Kentucky is substantial and complicated. Addressing this formidable challenge requires a multifaceted approach that combines the resources and skills of our state’s leading research universities, a broad network of engaged community partners throughout Kentucky, as well as national organizations dedicated to the goal of optimizing lung cancer care and control in Kentucky. Together, we can transform the landscape of lung cancer in Kentucky," said Jamie Studts, PhD, principal investigator for Kentucky LEADS and associate professor in UK's college of medicine department of behavioral science.

The first component of the project focuses on provider education and is led by Connie Sorrell of the Kentucky Cancer Program West and Dr. Goetz Kloecker of the University of Louisville. Their team will implement a continuing education program for primary care providers to improve the quality of lung cancer care. The program highlights evidence-based lung cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as evidence-based tobacco cessation, early detection and survivorship efforts. A distinguished task force of health care leaders guided the development of the statewide provider education program and produced a handbook of recommendations to address the high mortality of lung cancer, “Lung Cancer in Kentucky: A Primary Care Action Plan.”

The handbook is available in print and offered online as a free CME.

"The recommendations are very comprehensive and address lung cancer screening, tobacco cessation, referral to cancer specialists and survivorship programs. Providers receive evidence-based information on the newest developments in the field," said Kloecker. "Undertreatment of lung cancer has been identified as a major factor contributing to the very high mortality rate of lung cancer in Kentucky. Targeting the educational efforts in areas of the greatest need is the major goal of the provider education project. Major progress has been made this year to identify the areas of need and the barriers that providers and patients face. These early findings have already been published in national and international meetings."

The second component, survivorship care, is led by Studts at the University of Kentucky. The survivorship care program promotes quality of life and well-being for individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, as well as their caregivers, throughout the continuum of the disease, including care for acute and late or long-term effects of the illness and treatment. Studts and his team will also implement a lung cancer survivorship care program for lung cancer navigators and mental health providers to better support individuals with lung cancer.

"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 Studts.

The third component focuses on prevention and early detection and is led by Dr. Timothy Mullett and Jennifer Redmond Knight, DrPH, at the University of Kentucky. Their team will support high-quality implementation of lung cancer screening throughout Kentucky and integration of shared decision-making and evidence-based tobacco cessation interventions in lung cancer control efforts. They will focus on optimal referral patterns, patient navigation, and established protocols for follow-up services and program retention.

Lung Cancer Alliance, the nation's oldest and leading non-profit organization dedicated lung cancer research and survivorship, will partner with UK on the survivorship and screening components, contributing to program design, administration, communications support and dissemination.

"We are honored to be part of this historic endeavor that is focused on bringing comprehensive, supportive care and life-saving services for the thousands of Kentuckians living with or at risk for the disease," said Emily Eyres, chief operating officer of Lung Cancer Alliance. "With our 20 years of expertise in patient support and advocacy, we aim to demonstrate with our implementing partners how responsible screening can be safely implemented at the community level while improving our understanding of what diagnosed patients need to improve outcomes. This first-ever framework to reduce lung cancer’s impact in Kentucky will set the stage for other states to follow. It is an exciting moment – and we aim to share our successes broadly as the national voice and leader for our community."

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Bridging Cancer Care initiative, which funds the project, focuses its work in southeastern states that have the highest lung cancer incidence and mortality rates, seeking to transform community-based care and support for lung cancer. Grants from the program support innovative models of prevention, detection and education, and helping people living with lung cancer to access and navigate cancer care and community-based supportive services.

“Early detection and treatment of lung cancer can lead to dramatically different outcomes,” said John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “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. So, early detection and diagnosis combined with education, new treatments and patient support are key to increased survival.”

Additional collaboration on this project comes from the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, the Kentucky Clinical Trials Network, the Markey Cancer Foundation, the Kentucky Cancer Foundation and a broad range of community-based stakeholder groups, collaborators, partnering organizations, and healthcare systems throughout Kentucky and nationally.

More information about the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative is available at their website.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Mallory Powell,, (615)828-0000